Oxford

Oxfordshire fires: Council staff return to work

Council office fire Image copyright Ian negus
Image caption The councils' IT systems could a week to restore and some phone lines remain out of action

Some council staff have returned to work after a major fire destroyed their offices.

South Oxfordshire District Council's headquarters in Crowmarsh Gifford, was one of three properties wrecked in blazes on Thursday.

Vale of White Horse District Council, which shares the building, said 72 staff would work from its Abingdon office.

A 47-year-old man has been charged with arson and is in custody.

About 400 people normally work at the fire-damaged council site.

A spokesman said from Monday, the housing team would be running as normal, along with waste collections, street cleaning and leisure centres.

Oxfordshire chief fire officer Dave Etheridge, said the county had faced its "biggest challenge" in more than a decade when the fires broke out.

He said: "We had gale force winds, coupled with freezing temperatures, coupled with a huge fire - absolutely one of the most challenging nights we've had in Oxfordshire."

At their peak, 27 crews tackled three blazes at the offices, an undertakers and a thatched cottage, which all started shortly after 03:00 GMT.

'Long-term location'

The councils, which share a number of services, said a skeleton staff of 40 people worked from temporary accommodation last week.

A spokesman said it would take about a week to restore the authorities' IT systems.

He said: "Some parts of our website work on systems that we are still restoring and might not work as normal, for example online application forms and reporting. Also, as our phone service isn't completely restored, some phone numbers may not work.

"So, we're kindly asking residents to please only get in touch if they have a genuine emergency.

"Once our basic services are up and running, we will then turn our attention to expanding those services and establishing a long-term location for all of our staff."

A helpline has been set up for urgent enquiries.

Image caption A thatched cottage on Quakers Corner in Rokemarsh, near Benson, was hit by fire

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