Stoke & Staffordshire

Stafford fireworks fire: Two missing, man arrested

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Media captionAerial footage shows the damage to the fireworks warehouse

Two people are missing after a large blaze at a fireworks warehouse that saw two people taken to hospital.

Dramatic bursts of fireworks and thick smoke could be seen as the fire burned in Stafford on Thursday night.

Although the blaze at the unit of SP Fireworks was brought under control in about three hours, fire crews are still damping down.

A 53-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the blaze, Staffordshire Police said.

In total four people were hurt in the fire, which started at about 17:00 GMT and tore through the building on the Baswich Industrial Estate.

Two men remain in hospital; a man in his 40s, who suffered serious burns, is in a critical condition and a man in his 60s, who sustained a back injury, is stable.

'Man on fire'

At its peak, the blaze was being tackled by about 50 firefighters.

Police cannot get onto the site until the building is deemed safe, BBC reporter Frankie McCamley said at the scene.

The Staffordshire force said the site would be searched once the fire was completely out, as the operation moved into an investigation into the cause of the fire.

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Media captionTim Hyde from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue: ''It's too unsafe to enter the premises''

Supt Jane Hewett said: "On Friday we will continue to investigate this incident and work to ensure everyone is accounted for."

She said the force's focus remained on tracing those at the factory shortly before the explosion.

Image copyright Jodiphotography
Image caption The blaze could be seen from some distance away, according to onlookers
Image copyright Staffordshire Police
Image caption The fire service said it used a specialist platform to bring the fire under control
Image caption About 50 fire fighters attended the blaze at its height, the fire service said

West Midlands Ambulance Service said four people were treated at the scene and two needed to be taken to hospital - a man in his 40s with serious burns and a man in his 60s who had inhaled smoke.

A number of roads in the area were closed and businesses and homes were evacuated.

Stephanie Horton works in a neighbouring business on the industrial estate and was treated for the effects of smoke inhalation at the scene.

She described hearing "three massive explosions" and seeing the owner of a neighbouring business thrown to the floor by the blast.

Image caption Stephanie Horton was treated at the scene

Ms Horton said she saw two vehicles parked outside SP Fireworks, and one man running out of the blazing building.

"It became evident after that there were potentially other missing people," she said.

According to its website, SP Fireworks is part of Stafford Plastics Group, which supplies roofing and other building materials.

'Mayhem'

Darren Humphreys works at an accident repair business opposite the premises, and said the area was quickly engulfed by smoke.

"There was a chap who got out who was on fire and a couple of our lads ran over to help him," he said.

Eyewitness Robert Hine said he first heard an "enormous bang" at about 17:20.

Image copyright Richard Vernalls/PA
Image caption Emergency services cannot enter the building until it has been declared safe

"It was like November the 5th 10 times," he said.

"There were fireworks going off in all directions, bangs, great plumes of black smoke.

"I assumed someone must have set fire to a great load of fireworks.

"It was mayhem."

Police said they planned to reduce the size of the cordon around the scene in the early hours so Baswich Lane could reopen to traffic.

Tilcon Ave will remain closed and cordoned off while the investigation continues, and all the businesses accessed via Tilcon Ave will remain closed and sealed off for the time being.

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