HUNDREDS of people were evacuated from an industrial estate after fire broke out in an aerospace factory this afternoon.

Thick black smoke could be seen pouring from the Gardner plant at Number One Industrial Estate in Consett after the alarm was raised at around 2.15pm.

No-one was hurt but roads around the area were closed by police while eight fire crews battled for two hours using an aerial ladder platform to get the blaze under control.

The Northern Echo:

Fire engines at the scene of the fire 

Eleanor Hill, 21, from Consett, who works at CAV Ice next to the factory unit, said: “We saw a bit of smoke out of the window and were told everyone had to be evacuated straight away and went to stand on the grass verge.”

The Chinese-owned firm is one of the largest independent manufacturers of metallic aerospace detailed parts in Europe and the company machines, fabricates and treats everything from simple to complex detailed parts.

It is understood the fire broke out in an extraction system after work had been carried out to remove equipment.

Keith Wanley, area manager, for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The early warning alarm went off and the crews have gone in there and attacked the fire before it has spread to the rest of the system.

“They have knocked down the fire very rapidly, however the building was still full of black smoke.

“They have put teams with breathing apparatus in using thermal imaging cameras to see if the fire had spread.

“The crews have done a superb job with their rapid deployment because it could have been quite disastrous had it spread further.”

The Northern Echo:

Thick black smoke drifts across the industrial estate 

The fire is not thought to be suspicious but an investigation to determine the cause will be carried out by investigators from the fire service.

During the incident police closed the road to entrances to the industrial estate and the fire was under control by 4.30pm. 

Inspector Keith Wardle said: “It has been a large scale fire and it has been necessary to close the road through the industrial estate because the smoke has been billowing across it.

“We followed the fire service’s advice to closed the road and evacuate the nearby buildings as a safety precaution.”