Rackheath Industrial estate blaze still smouldering 12 weeks after fire

A huge fire which destroyed a paper shredding plant in Rackheath took three months to finally be put out.

Engineers arrived at PHS Datashred at Rackheath Industrial estate on Wednesday to find bales of paper continuing to burn 12 weeks after the fire, which was tackled by 13 crews and 60 firefighters on February 29 and March 1.

Crews had left the paper to smoulder amid fears the building could collapse if they went in and made their last visit to the site on March 6.

Peter French, managing director of engineers Canham Consulting, who are clearing the site, said the paper held so much heat that when it was raked the rubbish ignited again.

He said: 'It surprised everybody.


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'The metal wire holding the bales melted and they ended up as a heap of shredded material.

'Every time it got disturbed it sparked. The heat retention is huge.

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'We couldn't do anything about it.

'When you consider it was a wet April it is amazing it went on until last week.'

Mr French said the blaze was started in the shredder by a 'highly-combustible' material.

Sprinklers built into the shredder were not enough to put out the fire which then ripped through the rest of the building.

A planning application has now been put in to rebuild the plant, estimated to cost �800,000.

Landlord Nick Franklin, 58, from Wroxham, who sold the business to PHS five years ago, said his insurance would cover the cost.

'The fire has given me a great deal of work,' he said. 'The insurance was fine and we will put it back. It will look identical.'

Yesterday the plant resembled a war zone with a burnt out forklift truck and destroyed machinery surrounded by twisted metal poles with debris covering the floor.

The remains of the burnt out building are now being knocked down and the site will be cleared by the end of the week.

Metal sheets from the roof and poles are being cut down to be scrapped.

Engineers will then look to see if the foundations and floor can be used for the new building.

PHS Datashred, which employed around 20 people at the site, moved the work being done by the plant to other sites.

A spokesman said: 'All correct procedures and processes were followed.

'There is no risk of re-ignition or harm to the public.

'We have been careful to support PHS Datashred's staff during this time. All staff have been relocated to suitable business accommodation nearby.

'We also contacted our customers with notice of the robust contingency plan in place, which was implemented to ensure the continuity and confidentiality of the services we provide them.

'Collections continue to be made, and from their perspective it is 'business as normal'.'

PHS Datashred said the cause of the fire was still being investigated.

When the fire started on the morning of February 29 smoke could be seen for miles around and eye witnesses said flames could be seen licking through the windows of the large two-storey building.

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