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Walsall fire: Bricks land on cars as arson attack destroys old leatherworks

By Thomas Parkes | Walsall | Crime | Published:

Investigations are continuing after a huge fire in Walsall which is being treated as arson.

Part of Greatrex House collapsed after an arson attack in Walsall

Bricks landed on cars when part of a building collapsed after an arson attack in Walsall town centre last night.

The area around Marsh Street was closed for more than 12 hours as firefighters dealt with the blaze, which started at around 4.45pm and led to 31 people being evacuated from nearby flats.

At the peak of the blaze, 50 firefighters from nine fire engines were battling the flames at Greatrex House and crews continued firefighting until around 6.20am today.

West Midlands Police has confirmed the fire is being treated as arson.

WATCH footage of the blaze:

Video: Snapper SK

Fire guts Walsall factory

A small team of firefighters remained at the scene examining the building today, with a structural engineer helping to decide whether it will now be demolished.

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Bricks remained scattered across Marsh Street, where at least one car had been wrecked by the falling debris and others were still parked behind the reduced cordon.

The former leatherworks was already earmarked for demolition and development, with planning permission granted for more than 200 luxury apartments at the site and neighbouring properties.

The fire in Walsall on Tuesday evening. Photo: Walsall Fire Station
Bricks in Navigation Street after part of the building collapsed

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Four children and 27 adults were ordered to leave their homes and were first taken to the Town Hall before being put up in nearby hotels.

Officers put a cordon in place as people gathered to watch the drama unfold and the area remained sealed off overnight.

Nobody was injured and so far no suspects have been arrested.

Around 50 firefighters were at the scene at the height of the fire
The building in Navigation Street used to be a leatherworks

A spokesman for West Midlands Fire Service: "We had the call at 4.51pm on Tuesday afternoon.

"The first crew was there in under three minutes.

"We had a lot of smoke reported to us from a lot of callers and it was clear in the early stages that the fire had broken through the roof of the building.

Ambulance service staff were there on standby but nobody was treated

"We had 50 plus firefighters and our crews, while they were dealing with the incident, had to deal with the danger of the building collapse.

"In fact, some parts did collapse and there was brickwork all over the place.

"We requested a structural engineer to attend from Walsall Council.

At least one car was wrecked after bricks fell from the fire-hit building in Walsall
Fire crews used an aerial platform to fight the blaze

"We had to put in what we call a prohibited area which no firefighters could work in because of the dangers of the building collapse.

"Walsall Council were in attendance to manage 27 adults and four children who had been evacuated from the adjacent apartment block.

"The council was making plans to accommodate the evacuated people at 10pm last night.

The fire started at around 4.45pm on Tuesday

"We still have one or two crews there just keeping a watch.

"At 6.20am they said firefighting had now ceased.

"We lifted our cordons at around 6.40am because our operations had come to an end and so businesses could operate as normal."

Disappointing

In the aftermath of the blaze, deputy leader of Walsall Council Adrian Andrew said: “It’s disappointing to see this happen because of the impact on emergency services and the residents living here.

“It was going to come down anyway, but this is not the way you want it to happen.

People who live in nearby flats were evacuated and put up in hotels

“Thirty-one people were evacuated from nearby flats, and if they can’t go back to their homes the council will put them up in a hotel.

“The council will do everything it can to help.”

Anyone with information is urged to contact police online between 8am and midnight, or by calling 101 anytime.

Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Quote log number 1832 of June 11.

Thomas Parkes

By Thomas Parkes
Trainee Reporter - @TParkes_Star

Trainee reporter at the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch at thomas.parkes@expressandstar.co.uk.

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