Bomb disposal experts called to Burnham Market today after shock find in store room clear-out

PUBLISHED: 17:09 13 September 2012

Coastguard Steve Willlsher who was first on the scene and initially secured the flares for the bomb disposal unit

Coastguard Steve Willlsher who was first on the scene and initially secured the flares for the bomb disposal unit


Bomb disposal experts were called to Burnham Market today after 40-year-old parachute flares were discovered in a store room.

A bomb disposal unit from Colchester came to Burnham Motors after the flares, which contained potentially dangerous phosphorus, were found during a clear-out.

Workshop foreman, Scott Raven, said: “We were having a massive tidy-up. There were six of them found by our apprentice, Sam Weston, in a plastic bag in a back room.”

Mr. Raven called the coastguard station officer at Wells, Steve Willsher, who immediately realised the danger when he saw they were in a poor condition.

Mr Willsher said: “They are normally used as distress flares at sea and contain phosphorus which burns at a 1,000 degrees centigrade if exposed to air.”

He secured them in a strong metal box, placed them well away from surrounding buildings and alerted the bomb disposal unit.

Bomb Disposal experts from the Royal Logistics Corps at Colchester arrived at the garage within two hours and removed the flares to Holkham beach where they were destroyed by a controlled explosion.

It is understood that the flares were bought by the previous owner of the garage, the late Arthur Mason, for a customer who never collected them. Forty years ago he ran a business selling boats and repairing outboard engines alongside motor cars.

Mr Willsher outlined the potential dangers posed by phosphorus flares by describing a similar incident he was involved with.

He said: “We found some flares a couple of years ago which were split, cracked and weeping and it was obviously going to be a tricky job getting them to the beach to destroy them.

“When a bomb disposal man and myself took them to Holkham I was instructed not to do up my seat belt. We drove to Holkham at 20 miles an hour and I was told that if anything happened I was to immediately to jump out of the vehicle.

“I was told it was better they lost the vehicle than their lives.”

As well as Burnham Motors the Station Garage, next to what was once Burnham Market railway station, has a range of other businesses which were at risk if the phosphorus-filled flares had caught fire, including Mermaid Fish and Chips, Silk Road Chinese Take-a-way, M & M Builders, Classic Sheds and Burnham Pine.

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