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Sawbridgeworth fire watch commander describes 'arduous conditions' crews faced at huge Harlow factory blaze



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A Sawbridgeworth fire chief has described the "arduous conditions" his crew and scores of other firefighters faced at a huge factory blaze in Harlow on Tuesday morning (April 26).

Sawbridgeworth's was among 12 crews – eight from Essex and two each from Hertfordshire and London – numbering up to 70 firefighters, who were in attendance at the height of the fire at the industrial building in River Way, off Edinburgh Way.

It was 36 hours before firefighters could leave the scene. Throughout Tuesday, residents were advised to keep their windows closed and road closures caused major traffic disruption in Harlow. Plumes of smoke could be seen in Sawbridgeworth and further afield.

Crews faced arduous conditions at the factory blaze on Tuesday (56366408)
Crews faced arduous conditions at the factory blaze on Tuesday (56366408)

Sawbridgeworth station watch commander Simon Lincoln revealed his team were among the first to arrive at the scene after being called to a "make pumps 4" incident – which means four appliances were required – at 5.40am. The four were completed by two from Harlow and one from Old Harlow.

"As per Hertfordshire’s procedures, Hoddesdon were also mobilised with us, for safety, as there was a chance we would be using breathing apparatus, which requires a great level of personnel to complete this task safely," said Simon.

"Along with Essex crews, we established a stable water supply from using fire hydrants in the road and setting portable pumps into the River Stort," he added.

Twelve fire crews from Essex, Hertfordshire and London tackled the blaze at a factory in Harlow (56286381)
Twelve fire crews from Essex, Hertfordshire and London tackled the blaze at a factory in Harlow (56286381)

"Due to the complexity of the building's layout and the fire loading of cardboard and packaging inside, crews faced arduous conditions of heat and smoke and had difficulties progressing into the building.

"Fire had spread quickly around the building due to its open-plan layout of a processing warehouse, so our task, whilst Essex crews tackled the fire on one front, was to stop the spread of fire heading around unaffected parts of the building, whilst knocking it back at the same time."

Simon said that the Sawbridgeworth crew was relieved after five hours by others from Herts who remained at the incident until 3.30pm, when Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) began to scale down the number attending. As well as firefighters an urban search and rescue team attended, along with police and an East of England Ambulance Service hazardous area response team (HART).

ECFRS reported that an investigation concluded the fire started accidentally.

Firefighters tackle the blaze at a Harlow factory (56292613)
Firefighters tackle the blaze at a Harlow factory (56292613)
Fire crews from Sawbridgeworth, Harlow and Old Harlow were the first on the scene
Fire crews from Sawbridgeworth, Harlow and Old Harlow were the first on the scene


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