Homes evacuated as blaze wrecks factory in Barwell, Leicestershire
A factory containing hundreds of thousands of brochures has been destroyed in a huge inferno.
Flames could be seen for miles around as more than 50 firefighters battled the blaze in the centre of Barwell for about seven hours on Saturday.
The premises, used by marketing firm Arden Direct and Digital, was just yards from residential properties and some nearby homes were evacuated as the fire raged.
Residents were forced to find other places to stay on Saturday night as they were not allowed back to their homes.
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Yesterday afternoon, as demolition crews moved in to secure the smouldering shell of the large two-storey building, they were uncertain when they would be allowed to return to their homes.
Two videos by Mark Foster of the fire filmed from the Northern Perimeter Road in Hinckley, on Saturday at about 4.30pm.
Phill Ludbrook's video of the fire in Barwell as it took hold over the weekend.
Arden's owner, Sally Hollis, was herself unable to get close to the building yesterday as the emergency services kept up the cordon while they investigated the cause of the blaze.
Ms Hollis was on holiday in Paris when she got a call about the blaze from a member of staff. She said: "I was in my hotel and my phone went. He said, 'The factory's burned down'.
"I jumped on the Eurostar and got back as soon as possible.
"I don't know what is going to happen. I haven't been able to get to the building but it has been very badly damaged."
Three of her 35 members of staff were working in a call centre when the fire started at the Arthur Street building, but were able to escape unharmed.
She said: "The most important thing is that nobody was hurt, thank God. That's the only bit of good news.
"We have been here for 38 years. I'm not sure what will happen now. At this time of year, insurance companies are closed and our customers are closed. I feel helpless."
She said the firm's main customers were holiday firms and mail order companies and large amounts of printed material were being kept in the building ready to be sent out.
She said: "We had one lot of more than 300,000 brochures. It looks like they have gone up."
She said it was impossible to estimate the financial cost of the fire to her business.
Police and firefighters have launched an investigation to find the cause of the fire, but have said it is too early to determine whether there are any suspicious circumstances.
Residents in Barwell and nearby Earl Shilton were advised to keep their windows and doors shut because of the acrid smoke from the fire.
The blaze also affected water, gas and electricity in surrounding streets, although most supplies had been restored by yesterday afternoon.
IT worker Phill Ludbrook, 27, and his family, from George Street, opposite Arden, had to stay with his parents on Saturday night and he was unable to get back to his home yesterday afternoon.
He said: "My wife called the fire brigade at about 3pm, but within 20 minutes the whole place was up in flames.
"The windows were exploding from the heat. We were told to get to the back of the house away from the fire.
"The wall of factory collapsed and it made a terrific sound."
He said his children, William, five, and Poppy, six, were scared by the fire. He said: "We had to pass the kids over the garden fence to my parents because we couldn't get out of the front of the house.
Margaret Miller, 61, was shopping when she got a phone call about the fire. She was unable to return to her flat in King Street and had to spend the night with her sister.
She said: "It's terrible. I had problems because I couldn't get home, but what about all the people who worked there. What will they do?"
Yesterday, at 5pm, George Street was the only road still closed.
A fire service spokesman said a crew would remain at the site to dampen down the wreckage.
He said: "The cause is under investigation. There has had to be some demolition work done on the remains of the building. Once that is complete the investigation will begin."