Firefighters were decontaminated as a precaution after fighting a serious blaze at a Stotfold vehicle workshop with an asbestos roof.
Crews were called at 10.12pm on Friday to the incident in the single storey building in Hitchin Road.
Fire engines from Shefford and Biggleswade were sent to the scene, supported by two fire engines from Baldock crewed by colleagues from Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.
When Shefford firefighters arrived on the scene they found the 10m x 60m workshop well alight.
They quickly established the presence of asbestos in the roof of the building and called for the hazardous materials team from Stopsley to provide them with protection from the substance and make available decontamination from any particles picked up during their efforts.
While there was no risk to local residents, police visited neighbours to ensure they had their doors and windows closed as a precaution. No-one was evacuated and there were no casualties.
Firefighters in breathing apparatus began to fight the fire using four jets from defensive positions outside the building due to the likelihood of cylinders within the building.
They then discovered an acetylene cylinder and other gas cylinders in the workshop and because of the risk of an explosion if they overheated they adapted their tactics to deal with this. They began cooling the acetylene cylinder with water jets to keep it cool, while continuing to fight the fire.
By 1am the fire was out and firefighters were damping down the location.
Four firefighters, who had been battling the fire wearing breathing apparatus, were decontaminated as a precaution by the Decontamination Unit from Stopsley. Firefighters wearing haz-mat suits to protect them from the effects of asbestos had their possibly contaminated suits carefully bagged to be sent off for specialist cleaning.
Firefighters also had to keep cooling the acetylene cylinder to prevent it exploding.
Half of the workshop was damaged by the fire and it was 100% affected by smoke. A fire investigation was undertaken and it is thought the fire started accidentally.
The incident was formally closed at 2.15am on Saturday but firefighters remained at the scene until 6am to damp down the scene and reduce the temperature of the acetylene cylinder which was removed from the location by BOC.
Group commander Martin Statham, who was incident commander, said: “When we arrived on scene we quickly discovered that the roof of the workshop which contained asbestos was involved in fire and called for our haz-mat team and a specialist Hazardous Materials Officer to assist us.
“As it was a car repair workshop we anticipated there might be gas cylinders inside the building so for the safety of the crews we decided to fight the fire from outside.
“We then subsequently discovered the acetylene cylinder and other cylinders which had been involved in the fire and used hoses to cool them to prevent it causing further problems.
“Firefighters fought the fire in difficult conditions, made more complicated by having to deal with the additional risks from asbestos and a number of cylinders including the one acetylene cylinder.
“They did a great job at containing the fire, reducing risks to themselves and neighbours and in containing the potential hazard from the acetylene cylinder.
“The crews are well trained in the decontamination of colleagues from hazardous materials and the procedures worked extremely well.
“I’d like to congratulate our firefighters and colleagues from Hertfordshire for a well-executed response to what could have been a more serious incident.”
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