SIXTY firefighters battled for almost five hours to bring a huge blaze at a plastics factory near Preston under control early today.
The fire, which started shortly before 3am, almost completely destroyed the plant at Total Polyfilm Ltd on the Walton Summit Industrial Estate.
Residents in the Bamber Bridge area were warned to keep their windows and doors closed as a large cloud of thick black smoke hung over the site.
The factory’s night shift of around 30 workers was evacuated when the blaze was first spotted in the factory’s maintenance department.
It took crews with 10 fire engines and two aerial ladder platforms until around 7.45am to get the incident under control.
And later the firefighters were praised for the way they prevented it spreading to nine raw material silos adjacent to the factory.
Incident commander Jerry Cragg said: “Without the efforts, skill and professionalism of firefighters from across the county this could have been an even worse incident.
“Had it managed to spread to those silos and a taller building next door we would have had another huge fire to deal with.”
Roads leading to the industrial park were closed by police and are expected to remain shut for some time.
Workers at nearby companies were being advised to stay away from the area if possible.
Jerry Cragg added: “We have lost one factory and the last thing we want is for other businesses to be badly affected.
“But we are likely to be here for most of the day, if not longer, and we will try our best to allow access for other businesses when it is safe.
“The advice to keep windows and doors shut remains for the time being because, with it being a still day, the smoke is just hanging in the air and isn’t being dispersed.”
The alarm was raised at 2.50am when smoke was spotted coming from the maintenance department at the factory in Seedley Road. Two crews from Bamber Bridge attended and, although the fire was only small at that stage, it rapidly spread throughout the building.
Extra crews were called in from stations across the county to feal with the incident.
Brigade area manager Simon Fryer said: “When we first arrived the fire was quite small and developing. But, due to the fuel inside the building, it escalated very, very quickly. The building was occupied at the time and processes were taking place.
“At this time we don’t know exactly what the cause is, but we are undertaking a full fire investigation to find out what caused it.
“We will have a presence on the site for the prest of the day. It will take us some time to deal with this completely.
“At the moment (7am) we need people to avoid the area because there are a lot of fire engines and equipment around here. The best thing people can do is avoid the smoke. Everyone downwind of the fire should keep their doors and windows closed.”
By 7.45am the number of fire engines was reduced from 10 to six as crews continued damping down and ensuring the scene was safe.”
Total Polyfilm, in Seedlee Road, manufactures and supplies polythene plastic products and bags.
More to follow.