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Explosion sparks fire at Durham police HQ
Firefighters inspect the damage following the incident at Durham Constabulary Headquarters at Aykley Heads
THE New Year started with a bang for a North-East police force, as an explosion sparked a fire at its headquarters.
Firefighters rushed to Durham Constabulary’s ageing HQ, in Aykley Heads, Durham City, this morning (Tuesday, January 1), after a blaze was triggered by a battery overheating.
A lithium battery for a police radio had been left to recharge when it exploded at around 7.30am, causing a fire in a ground floor office and storage room in a training block.
Two police staff who were in the area at the time were unhurt but were sent home following the incident.
Fortunately, the flames did not spread further through the 1960s building, although the rooms affected were badly damaged and rooms next to and above them sustained smoke damage.
The fire brigade scrambled at least 20 firefighters, six fire engines, an environmental protection unit and a mobile incident command unit to deal with the blaze.
The fire was extinguished by about 11am. No-one was injured.
Speaking shortly afterwards, Chief Superintendent Ivan Wood said the fire had posed no danger to members of the public, had not affected the force’s ability to police County Durham and Darlington and it was “business as usual”.
The area affected was not “operational”, he added.
C/Supt Wood said the size of the fire brigade response was due to concerns over the presence of lithium metal, which is highly reactive and flammable.
No estimate of the cost of the damage to the building has yet been announced. A structural engineer is due to assess the scene tomorrow (Wednesday, January 2).
Durham Constabulary is due to move to a new £14m purpose-built HQ just a few yards up the road in spring 2014, after which the existing building is to be demolished to make way for around 230 houses, mostly costly executive homes.
The current HQ costs £1.6m to maintain and police chiefs say it is no longer fit for purpose.
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