- Title: ENGLAND: Fire crews given go-ahead to tackle UK blaze
- Date: 12th December 2005
- Summary: (W3) HEMEL HEMPSTEAD, ENGLAND, UK (DECEMBER 12, 2005) (REUTERS) BURNING DEPOT
- Embargoed: 27th December 2005 12:00
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes
- Reuters ID: LVAD9YMEA57Z50ZG0NQ52CUNSAR1
- Story Text: Fire crews began fighting one of Europe's biggest ever industrial blazes on Monday (December 12) -- an inferno at a fuel depot north of London -- after being held at bay by intense heat for 24 hours.
The fire broke out shortly before dawn on Sunday (December 11) after a wave of explosions ripped through the depot at Hemel Hempstead.
Police said the explosions, which injured 43 people and blew out windows and doors from nearby houses, appeared to be an accident.
The blasts, heard up to 100 miles (160 km) away, had initially raised fears of a possible repeat of the deadly wave of suicide bombings in London in July.
Fire-fighters spent Sunday night discussing with environmental authorities how to tackle the blaze with fire-quenching foam without polluting local water supplies.
"This is the largest fire of this kind we in the UK or Europe have dealt with," Hertfordshire's Chief Fire Officer, Roy Wilsher told reporters on Monday. "We are in uncharted territory.
"We are not even sure how the thermal currents are going to affect the foam. It might just vaporise it all," he added.
On Monday morning, the fire was still raging, with thick black smoke billowing out of the Buncefield depot and drifting over residential areas nearby.
Chief Superintendent Jeremy Alford said plans were being made to get the area back to "normality" as soon as the fire was extinguished.
He said 25 people had not able to return to their homes during the night but he expected them to be going back soon.
He said the return to normality may begin Tuesday (December 13) morning if the fire is extinguished by tonight.
The depot supplies petrol and fuel oils to a large part of southeast England, including Luton and Heathrow airports.
Officials said the explosions were unlikely to cause fuel shortages and urged motorists to avoid panic-buying of petrol.
The depot, the fifth largest in Britain, is jointly run by oil companies Total and Texaco.
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