Asbestos smoke fear over Birmingham after Smethwick factory blaze
Sep 29 2009 By Matt Lloyd
Birmingham residents were today told to keep their windows shut as a plume of smoke which may contain asbestos spread south east across the city.
There were fears people may trapped after part of a roof collapsed in a major factory blaze in Smethwick. Trains were stopped from calling at two stations nearby and a level two asbestos alert was declared.
More than 200 fire fighters used water from a Black Country canal to tackle the blaze at the Hawthorns Trading Estate, Cornwall Road, Smethwick
Shortly after noon, West Midlands Fire service spokesman Bill Gough said: ‘‘The plume of smoke from the fire, which has been upgraded to a level two asbestos incident, is travelling south east from Smethwick, across Birmingham. It is not dropping on the city, it’s carrying across the city.
‘‘The advice advice is to stay inside and close your windows.
‘‘Trains have been prevented from stopping at Rolfe Street Station, and Booth Street station.’’
A level two alert tightens up controls of how firefighters can operate at the scene and includes rules on advising the public how to react downwind.
Fire fighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the Tropical House factory, home of Monty's Tropical Rags, but had to pull-out when part of the building collapsed in the blaze.
Flames then spread to neighbouring factories and businesses on the opposite side of the road.
A fire service spokesman said not all persons on the site had been accounted for before the partial collapse of the Tropical House roof.
Crews from Smethwick and Ladywood were first on the scene but quickly requested back-up. Around 30 pumps were sent to tackle the fire .
Mr Gough said large amounts of canal water would be needed to douse the flames.
Workers from nearby units were also evacuated by police and told to leave their belongings behind.
Paul Bowen, from Bartek Engineering, based three units away from Tropical House on Cornwall Road, said he and his colleagues were evacuated by police just before 1pm.
He said: “All we saw was black smoke and we could smell the burning.
“The police came in and got us, all they said was there was a major fire. All of our cars are still down there.”