Langley Green distillery fire chemical link
- 27 November 2012
- From the section Birmingham & Black Country
A massive fire at a distillery in the Black County was probably caused by a combination of chemicals being mixed, fire investigators say.
At the height of the blaze on Monday, more than 100 firefighters were tackling flames at Alcohols Ltd, in Crosswells Road, Langley Green.
About 200 homes were evacuated as the fire ripped through the building.
The fire has now been extinguished and many residents in the area have been allowed back home.
A man in his 20s was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham suffering from burns on 20% of his body.
West Midlands Police said he was in a stable condition.
A 100m cordon was lifted, although a reduced cordon remained in place affecting around 20 properties in the Crosswells Road and Hall Street area, the force said.
Dozens of residents who spent the night in temporary accommodation have been allowed back to their houses.
Father-of-two Hardip Singh, 41, had to go to a friend's house after being evacuated from his home in Vicarage Street when the fire started on Monday morning.
Asked about his house, he said: "It's all right, it's fine.
"There's no electricity but I've been given a special number to call and find out when it will be back to normal."
Darren O'Neil said his house, which backs on to the distillery, had "a lucky escape".
He said: "I'm just relieved there's no damage, it obviously could've been a lot worse than it was.
"If you look at the houses on Hall Street it looks like the windows have been cracked and smashed, but it seems like the fire has stayed on the other side of the estate.
"We've still got no gas or electric and the house is freezing," he added.
Mother-of-two Mai Rutherford, said her family stayed with friends, after initially going to nearby Moat Farm Junior school, which was set up as a refuge centre by Sandwell council.
"They took care of us down there, we had people come out and give us food and made sure that people without family had somewhere to stay," she said.
"We're just grateful that it wasn't worse and that nobody was killed."
West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) said all fires at the scene had been extinguished but five firefighters were still at the site "keeping a watching brief".
It said the exact cause of the fire was still being looked into by its investigation team, but it believed it had started when chemicals were transferred from large tanks outside the main building to smaller drums.
A structural engineer was assessing whether the building needed to be demolished, the service said.
Mal Fellowes from WMFS said: "It was a three storey building and all the floors have actually burned through so structurally it is unsafe.
"Until we get that advice from a building engineer we can't completely open all the roads."
Managing director of Alcohols Ltd, Adam Wallis, said the firm was "indebted to the swift response of the emergency services."
He said: "Our thoughts are very much with all the residents who have been displaced by the fire and we are focused on working with the emergency services and council to ensure that the site is safe, power can be restored and people can return to their houses."
He said the company was also supporting the injured man and his family.
Trains were suspended for several hours on Monday along a line which runs close to the distillery, but services have been running normally since Tuesday morning.