FIREFIGHTERS are today investigating the cause of a huge fire in Portsmouth,
The blaze ripped through a Copnor warehouse last night causing parked cars to explode, including NHS vans at a neighbouring site, pictured on page one.
The fire inside Scope Crash Repair Centre in Airport Service Road sent clouds of smoke into the sky at 7.52pm as it caught fire.
Firefighters were met with a wall of flames when they arrived as the fire took hold.
The smoke was so thick that driving visibility was dramatically reduced in the area and the plume could be seen as far as Gosport and the Isle of Wight.
There was a strong chemical smell in the air.
One driver travelling along Eastern Road at 8pm said: ‘The smoke was so thick and black, I couldn’t see a thing.
‘It was like driving in the pitch dark – I had to put my headlights on full beam.’
Over 30 firefighters tackled the blaze as numerous explosions inside the building could be heard from the streets outside.
People nearby were evacuated and were seen moving cars at 8.20pm.
Police officers set up a 200m cordon around the building.
A small crowd of passers-by gathered at the police barriers.
Two crews from Cosham, three from Southsea and one from Havant were sent to deal with the incident. The aerial ladder from Southsea and the Special Equipment Unit from Cosham were also on the scene.
Firefighters worked through the night to douse the blaze and make the scene safe.
A spokeswoman from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘At 10.25pm we started to scale down our operation as most of the blaze was out by that time.
‘No-one was hurt in the incident, and it’s thought the building was empty when the fire broke out.’