One missing in Stafford firework plant blaze

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A SEARCH is due to get under way for a person missing after a large blaze at a fireworks factory which saw two others taken to hospital.

A specialist team will search premises of SP Fireworks in Tilcon Avenue, Stafford as police work to trace those people who were at the factory shortly before the explosion yesterday evening.

Smoke at the scene of a fire at a fireworks factory in Stafford, as rescue workers planned to begin their search for the missing people. Picture: PA

Smoke at the scene of a fire at a fireworks factory in Stafford, as rescue workers planned to begin their search for the missing people. Picture: PA

The rescue workers will begin their search for the person who remains unaccounted for after the premises are deemed safe, a spokesman for Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service said.

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“The search and rescue team will make an assessment as to the safety of the building, and a search of the premises will take place in daylight hours,” the spokesman said.

Dramatic footage showed thick plumes of smoke and bursts of fireworks exploding in all directions from the factory - a scene an eyewitness described as “horrendous”.

At the height of the blaze, which broke out at 5.15pm and took three hours to bring under control, there were 50 firefighters, eight engines and four specialist appliances at the scene, the fire service said.

West Midlands Ambulance Service sent four ambulances, the Hazardous Area Response Team, four emergency doctors, five paramedic officers and two rapid response vehicles to the site.

Two men were taken to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, one aged in his 60s suffering from a back injury and another, aged in his 40s, with serious burns.

Two women, one aged in her 40s and the other in her 50s, were assessed for smoke inhalation but discharged at the scene, police said.

A safety cordon was thrown up around the site of the factory which had closed for the day by the time the fire broke out.

The fire was largely scaled down by around 11pm, the fire service spokesman said.

Group manager Tim Hyde of Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service told ITV News last night that his team were trying to access and search an area of the premises to try to find the missing person.

He said: “There is a small area where if somebody is there and they have just fallen over and been knocked out, they would be able to survive. We are making access into that right now and we are going to search the area to confirm they are not in there.

“If they are there, we will rescue them and our ambulance colleagues will treat them immediately.”

Asked if things would look good for the missing person if they were trapped in that location, he said: “At this stage, no I’m afraid it doesn’t.”

Police are investigating the cause, after what they described as “a challenging and complex operation” to deal with the blaze.

A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: “On Friday we will continue to investigate this incident and work to ensure everyone is accounted for. Sadly at this stage we believe there is a person unaccounted for and our focus remains tracing those at the factory shortly before the explosion.

“A joint investigation into the incident is already under way, which will work to establish the cause and circumstances immediately before the fire.

Some disruption is expected as Tilcon Avenue remains closed during the investigation, with some local businesses sealed off, police added.

During the blaze onlooker Mike Hillman said he was watching from Tixall Road, adding “massive fire, loads of smoke this way, hope everyone is OK”.

He tweeted: “Hoping everyone is OK over there, looks like it has spread down the whole row of units on that side of the estate.”

Christina Harrison told BBC News: “My friend said ‘Oh, something has fallen on my head’. It turned out to be ash falling on us.

“As we got closer the smoke got worse and worse. You could just hear explosions and fireworks going off.”

Resident Brian Little told Sky News: “It was horrendous. You would not be surprised if there was one or two injuries. The flames were sky-high.”

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