Investigation into massive Newton Aycliffe warehouse blaze concludes

Firefighters dampen down the mangled wreckage of the warehouse

Firefighters dampen down the mangled wreckage of the warehouse

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

HEALTH and safety experts investigating a massive fire at a County Durham warehouse have concluded that no enforcement action should be taken.

The fire at Stiller Warehousing and Distribution at Aycliffe Business Park in Newton Aycliffe, on November 5, 2010, burned for more than four days and destroyed 7,500 pallets of aerosols and beauty products.

Although no-one was hurt, the fire destroyed the firm's specialist Control of Major Accident Hazards (Comah) centre and the 200ft flames could be seen from as far away as Durham and Middlesbrough.

In the aftermath of the fire, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into its cause.

It is thought the fire started when a leaking aerosol was ignited by the motor of a fork lift truck working in the area.

But, in a statement released today (Monday, January 14), a HSE spokesperson said there was no firm evidence to support this.

“HSE has concluded that no enforcement action under the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 1999 should be taken,” she said.

“On completion of the investigation, which involved the police, fire and rescue service and Environment Agency, it was determined that due to circumstantial evidence the cause of the fire could not be completely proven.”

However, the spokesperson said the investigation had highlighted key issues to take forward with the industry, including whether more could be done to reduce the risk of fire in aerosol warehouses.

At the time of the fire, Stiller Warehousing and Distribution, which has operated for more than 60 years and employs 100 people, was regulated by HSE and the Environment Agency as competent under COMAH regulations.

The prompt evacuation of the site, which ensured the eight employees working in the warehouse at the time of the fire escaped unharmed, was also praised.

Paul Stiller, managing director of Stiller’s, said the fire had evoked a “Dunkirk spirit” amongst the workforce.

“It is part of our history and unfortunately it is what a lot of people know us for,” he said.

“The fire presented us with a tremendous challenge but first and foremost we are thankful no-one was hurt.”

The fire destroyed 30 per cent of Stiller’s storage facilities but, since then, the firm has recovered and replaced the lost business with new storage and distribution contracts.

“We have moved on and want people to know us for our fantastic storage facilities and second to none reputation in the industry,” Mr Stiller added.

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