Portsmouth fire: Senior firefighter tells of 'dangerous' conditions at car garage blaze

A SENIOR firefighter has told how ‘dangerous’ conditions meant no crews could enter the car repair workshop garage destroyed in a blaze.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 7:00 am

More than 60 firefighters and 10 appliances were deployed to the blaze at 10.07am facing dangerous conditions.

Gas cylinders had to be removed from the scenes over fears they would explode – with some explosions heard by passers-by – during the inferno.

Byngs Autos owner Trevor Byng said he was as ‘sick as a pig’ after watching his business destroyed in the blaze.

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Station manager Lacey Plumbley was in charge of the operation to tackle the blaze in Goldsmith Avenue. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 280421-22)

Lacey Plumbley, a Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service station manager, led the emergency service response at Byngs Autos in Goldsmith Avenue in Southsea.

Police evacuated people living in Orchard Road and some in properties in Goldsmith Avenue to nearby Priory School in Fawcett Road.

Firefighters gave the all clear for residents to return home at around 3pm. No-one was injured.

Ms Plumbley said: ‘This was a significant event which was all the more dangerous due to the potential presence of gas cylinders, vehicles and other types of machinery in the garage.

‘It was crucial to stop the fire spreading and it is thanks to the response of the fire crews in partnership with the other emergency services such as the police and South Central Ambulance Service that we were able to prevent a rapid escalation of the fire and we were able to contain it to its place of origin.’

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Conditions were unpredictable and dangerous so the senior firefighter took the decision none of her crews should enter the building, even after the fire had been extinguished.

Ms Plumbley, who was one of the first officers on the scene, said: ‘We kept ourselves at a distance from the fire and managed to contain most of the flames within the building although some did extend out of the side.

‘There was also a significant smoke plume billowing into the sky. It’s important not to be nervous and after arriving on the scene instinct kicks in and you react to what you see.

‘This is what we train for and it is all part of the job.’

A decision was quickly made to evacuate all residents within the immediate vicinity of the fire.

The dedicated station manager added: ‘As well as putting out fires our role is to protect the public.

‘There was undoubtedly a significant risk from the fire and so the decision was taken to evacuate as a precaution.

‘One of the first jobs when we arrived at the scene was to ascertain if anyone was inside.

‘Fortunately the owner was at the scene when we arrived and was able to confirm no one was in the building.’

The fire started in the kitchen and quickly spread to vehicles and the workshop.

Ms Plumbley said: ‘The garage is still standing but is just a shell and has been completely burnt out.

‘The successful resolution of this incident was down the close work of all the emergency services involved.’

A Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service statement said: ‘Nearby residents (were) urged to keep windows closed and avoid the area as fire engines from Southsea, Cosham, Portchester, Havant, Fareham, Emsworth, Horndean and Waterlooville are currently on the scene.

‘The blaze in the kitchen area spread to the workshop involving cars, with firefighters working to remove several cylinders from the fire.

‘Several roads in the area (were) closed, with residents of Orchard Road evacuated as a precaution.

‘South Central Ambulance Service paramedics are also in attendance, but fortunately no casualties have been reported.

‘Firefighters are also working alongside Hampshire Police, Portsmouth City Council and Portsmouth Water to resolve the incident.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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