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'Most serious incident in power station's history'
4:23pm Tuesday 28th February 2012 in News
MORE than 120 firefighters from across Essex were scrambled to battle a blaze – described as the “biggest and most serious” incident in Tilbury Power Station’s history.
Seventeen crews from the far corners of the county rushed to the site off Fort Road as flames erupted in the fuel storage area of the station.
David Johnson, the county’s chief fire officer, admitted it was the most “complex and challenging” fire he had ever dealt with in his 20-year career.
He said his crews had to work in “dangerous and punishing” conditions.
Black smoke began billowing up between the station’s chimney towers shortly before 8am on Monday. The fire broke out in a woodchip “hopper” within the central core of the station, where 4,000 tonnes of wood pellets were being stored.
Mr Johnson said at the heart of the fire, the atmosphere was frantic. However, he insisted there was no danger to the public.
He said: “My crews are doing an absolutely fantastic job in dangerous and punishing conditions. Inside the building it’s hot, full of smoke and extremely dusty.
“This is certainly the most challenging and complex I’ve seen in my career.
“We have drafted in specialist equipment and have three aerial ladder platforms at the scene – I’ve never seen three together before. That’s how big this is.
“The smoke that is being given off is very similar to what you get from a bonfire, there are no dangerous chemicals involved, no pipes or liquids involved.
“We’ve had to isolate some high voltage power cables that were very close to the incident and we’re trying to establish the best way to apply fire-fighting foam. Fortunately, nobody has been injured and staff were all evacuated safely.”
At first, efforts to quell the blaze were hampered as the water pumped on to the flames made the woodchip pellets even heavier, threatening the structure of the storage area.
By lunchtime, firefighters changed tactics and a foam unit was brought in to douse the fire in foam, in a bid to lower the oxygen levels in the area so the blaze could burn itself out. This fire was one of the biggest operations ever dealt with by Essex County Fire and Rescue.
Crews from Leigh, South Woodham Ferrers, Rayleigh Weir, Grays, Brentwood, Basildon, Canvey, Orsett, Corringham, Billericay, Southend and Chelmsford were at the scene. Firefighters are expected to remain on the site for days.
Mr Johnson added: “Fires on this scale are rare. This is only the second fire in a power station I’ve ever had.”