North Pickenham blaze calls out firefighters out during strike

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Six fire crews from across Norfolk and Suffolk were called to a large blaze in a warehouse at Old North Pickenham Airfield on Saturday morning, during a four-day countrywide strike.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) walked out across the country over a dispute over changes to the national pension scheme on Friday, and are due to return to work tonight.

The fire service assured West Norfolk residents a 999 service would continue to operate during the strike action, and their promise was tested on Saturday morning.

Deputy chief fire officer, Roy Harold, said: “These warehouses are a real problem because the steel structures collapse easily and the metal seals the fire beneath it. The difficulty is if a fire does start and there are no sprinkler systems in place, it can spread very quickly.

“Once a fire breaks out, the building is often a complete loss. This warehouse belonged to a haulage company and four members of staff were on site when the fire broke out, they tried to put out the fire but retreated as it spread.”

He added: “In fires like this, we advise firefighters to stay back and fight the fire from a distance unless there is anyone inside, because they are likely to collapse. The strike action had no impact on how we treated the fire as the building had already started to collapse when firefighters arrived on scene.”

Yesterday, a smoke plume was still visible from the A47, and fire crews returned to the scene where work will soon begin on clearing the melted structure and tackling pockets of fuel found beneath.

Contingency plans have been put in place until the strike ends tonight at 6pm, but Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service urge residents to be vigilant during Bonfire Night activities.

Nigel Williams, chief fire officer for the area, said: “I would ask people to take extra precautions and be aware that we will have less resources available. We are once again been working hard to be as prepared and resilient as possible but 999 calls will be prioritised. Our advice would be for people, if possible, to attend organised events rather than holding them at home.”

Cllr Paul Smyth, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Communities Committee, said: “As usual, our Fire Service are trying to minimise the impact nationally, but the public can help enormously by following the advice provided on minimising fire risks and, importantly, taking care on the roads as the Fire and Rescue Service tend to see an increase in road traffic traffic collisions at this time of year.”

More information at www.norfolkfireservice.gov.uk