England

Major fire at gas-fired Didcot B power station

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Media captionEyewitness: "It was pretty dramatic, there was a lot of damage"

Fire crews have been battling a major blaze at Didcot B Power Station, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue has said.

At the height of the fire, which broke out in one of the cooling towers, 20 fire appliances were at the scene

Energy company RWE npower, which owns the gas-burning power station, has said the fire is now under control and there have been no injuries.

Police have warned local people to stay indoors and close their doors and windows.

The plant was shut down and all areas isolated before crews moved in to tackle the fire.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: "First, I want to thank the emergency services who are at Didcot working to tackle the blaze.

"I've been reassured by National Grid that there is no risk to electricity supplies. I will be keeping in touch with the relevant authorities throughout.

"My priority is to understand the cause of the fire and get the affected unit back generating electricity as soon as it's safe to do so."

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue's chief fire officer Dave Etheridge said: "We've currently got 12 fire engines in attendance, that's over 60 firefighters - and we've also got three hydraulic platforms so we can work at height putting water down on to the fire.

"We've been working very closely as well with the site management from Didcot Power Station to make sure it was shut down.

"I'm sure you can appreciate that water and electricity don't mix so we need to make sure that it's safe for our firefighters to fight the fire."

The fire service said the blaze was not being treated as arson or a terrorist incident.

A spokesman for RWE npower said: "We can confirm that no one is injured which is clearly the most important thing and also that the fire is now under control.

"Obviously the plant has been shut down."

He said it was "too early to say" how much damage had been caused, adding that there would have been "about a dozen" people on site when the fire broke out.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Firefighters used three aerial platforms to tackle the blaze
Image copyright Georgina Miles
Image caption Local people were warned to stay indoors and close doors and windows
Image copyright NPAS BENSON
Image caption This thermal image of the fire was taken from a National Police Air Service helicopter

Georgina Miles, who lives half a mile away, said the fire was "huge" but the flames had become smaller since firefighters had arrived.

"It was pretty dramatic; there was a lot of damage," Ms Miles said.

Leanne Little, 22, followed the fire engines to the scene.

"Every time a hose was used on the fire it seemed to get brighter," she said.

Zainab Mirmalek, who lives opposite the power station, said: "There's lots of water gushing down on it, lots of smoke and steam but the fire is definitely under control now."


Analysis: John Moylan, Industry Correspondent

Didcot B has two "modules" which together provide around 1.3GW of electricity to the grid. The npower website says that the plant provides enough power for a million homes.

The company says both modules were generating tonight. The fire was in a cooling tower linked to one of the modules, and it was decided to shut down that module. It was considered safe to keep the other running.

So if there is a long-term impact from tonight's fire it may be that around half the capacity from the plant is hit, but possibly not all of it.

That is to be confirmed, however. The company will know more when it assesses the damage.

National Grid said there was no operational impact from the fire. Demand for electricity is low on a Sunday night.


Fellow Didcot resident Leila Qureshi said: "We got quite near before the road was shut.

"The fire was ferocious. You could feel the heat and smell it."

Emergency service personnel from Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service, Thames Valley Police and the National Police Air Service (NPAS) have all been called in to help with the blaze.

The power station has been in operation since 1997 and can supply power to up to one million homes, according to RWE npower.

The neighbouring coal-powered Didcot A power station was closed last year.

Hundreds of people gathered to watch when three of its enormous cooling towers were demolished in July.


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