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A wood yard and shop was totally destroyed in a blaze that resulted in some 12 families, 40 people, being evacuated from an adjoining row of terraced houses just after 9pm on Tuesday evening.
The families were given shelter in a nearby library after the local emergency planning team were called to assist them. Power to their homes had to be cut as some 50 firefighters worked in punishing heat and smoke to prevent spread through the terrace.
The wood yard and shop, containing timber products, glues, resins and adhesives went up in a ball of smoke. Firefighters arriving at the scene quickly gained access to roof space in the terrace to ensure it was not a common void and that flames would not rip through the whole block.
Other crews immediately accessed the adjoining terraced house, converted to two flats, and poured jets onto the blaze from an upstairs window.
As flames took hold, crews had to be withdrawn for their safety and firefighting operations continued from outside the corner plot.
Relief crews from Wickford, Southend, Loughton, Chelmsford and Ongar were at the scene and worked throughout the night. They finally left the incident just after 5:30am this morning, reporting that all appears cool at the scene.
Fire investigators have ruled the cause was accidental.
Divisional Fire Officer Vernon Kendall, who led the investigation, said: “The site was completely secure and there was no sign of a break in. On that basis Police scenes of crime were not needed at the site this morning as we have concluded the cause was accidental.”