Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Firefighters tackle Basingstoke construction site fire

Basingstoke fire
Image caption Six people were evacuated. Pic by Hampshire Fire and Rescue

More than 100 firefighters and 12 specialist support vehicles have been tackling a major fire which broke out at a building site in Hampshire.

At its height the timber-framed block of flats on Gershwin Road, Basingstoke, was "in danger of total collapse", a fire service spokesman said.

Crews from Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire were involved and six people had to be moved from their homes.

An investigation into the cause of the blaze will start later.

The spokesman said the building, 100 metres (328ft) by 200 (656ft), was well alight when crews arrived shortly before 1830 on Friday.

Burning wooden embers from the building and the prevailing wind conditions put a number of other properties in the area at risk, including a nearby community college.

Firefighters 'at risk'

Eyewitness Debbie Bennett said she came out of supermarket in the area and saw people looking into the sky.

"I saw that smoke had blotted out the sun. There were flames high above the trees.

"Debris which was on fire soon started raining down on the onlookers and houses nearby, apparently the debris spread on the wind and fell in the town centre."

One police officer said about 60 flats in varying states of construction were on fire at the height of the blaze.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service chief officer John Bonney, current President of the Chief Fire Officers Association, attended the scene and issued a warning about the danger of timber framed buildings.

"When these buildings catch fire the actual structure burns. It often leads to total collapse and that puts the safety of our firefighters at risk."

He added that fire spread was a major concern at the incident, and that the Chief Fire Officers Association "was right to be increasingly concerned about the number and severity of fires in timber framed buildings under construction".

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