Crews still at scene of Chalfont St Giles fire

Thu 30 Apr, 2015

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is very grateful to private pilot Chris Evans from Chalfont St Giles, who provided aerial pictures (including the one above) which will be invaluable at the post-incident debrief. 
Chris flies out of Denham and he took the pictures from a Piper PA-28 while another pilot was at the controls.

Firefighters have been at the scene of a fire in Chalfont St Giles through the night after being called yesterday evening (Wednesday 29 April) shortly before 9.30pm.

It's at Little Stivers, opposite Windmill Farm in Bowstridge Lane - a rural, former agricultural site that now comprises a number of small, light industrial units.

At its peak, there were six fire engines, a turntable ladder, a water tanker and 35 firefighters and officers at the scene, from Gerrards Cross, Beaconsfield, Amersham, High Wycombe, Princes Risborough, Rickmansworth and Slough. A hazardous materials and environmental protection adviser also attended.

On arrival, crews were confronted with a well-developed fire affecting a number of outbuildings, containers and parked vehicles. Firefighters withdrew to a safe distance after a tenant of the site informed them that oxy-acetylene cylinders were present.

Station Commander Denis Melia said: "These are commonly used in welding operations and are extremely hazardous in fire situations due to their high propensity to explode violently when exposed to heat. During the incident, these and a number of other gas cylinders exploded. 

"Hose reel jet monitors were set up which provided a method of putting water on to the fire without exposing crews to danger. 

"A 200-metre exclusion zone was established with excellent assistance from Thames Valley Police, and several households were forced to evacuate their homes for the night due to their proximity to the danger. 

"The local community were extremely understanding and cooperative, and with their help we were able to ensure that no-one remained in a place of danger. The evacuation was protracted, with householders accepting the situation with extreme good grace.

"A police helicopter flew over the incident and was able to provide information on the size of the fire and any fire spread caused by exploding cylinders.

"One such explosion brought down an overhead power line, which in turn ignited a hedgerow.

"Crews remained at the scene throughout the night and three are currently (7.30am) there. The cause of the fire will be investigated this morning when the danger from exploding cylinders has abated.

"Cordons are likely to remain in place until at least the morning."

The fire was visible from a considerable distance, and Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service would like to thank the many people who took to social media to send their best wishes to the emergency services dealing with it.