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Fire-ravaged Smethwick factory at risk of collapse

By Jamie Brassington | Smethwick | News | Published:

Up to 50 firefighters tackled a huge blaze at a disused factory which has led to fears the building could collapse.

Flames can been seen bursting from the roof of the disused factory in Rolfe Street. All pictures: Tim Thursfield

Rubbish nearby was set alight deliberately before it spread to the nearby factory in Smethwick, say West Midlands Fire Service.

Rolfe Street was cordoned off in the aftermath this afternoon over fears that the factory would collapse.

Trains were stopped from calling at Smethwick Rolfe Street Railway Station leading to disruption for evening commuters.

WATCH: The scale of the blaze

Major fire at Smethwick factory

There were also concerns brickwork and debris would fall into the Birmingham Canal to the opposite side.

Crews were called at around 1pm to tackle the blaze.

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Fire crews remained at the scene dampening down into the evening

Up to 10 crews from across the Midlands were sent to the factory.

West Midlands Fire Service quickly increased the number of firefighters as the scale of the blaze became apparent.

Group commander Ben Diamond said: "It was quite a severe fire in a building which was empty.

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Exposed roof beams show the destruction of the fire

"The fire started accidentally spreading from people burning waste."

Crews used water drawn from the nearby Birmingham Canal to help quell the flames

The plume of smoke died down by around 3.30pm as crews were able to contain the flames to the fire-ravaged premise.

Dozens of firefighters were called to the scene in Rolfe Street

Debris was scattered outside while exposed timber beams showed the destructive force of the fire.

West Midlands Fire Service advised people to keep windows and doors closed nearby.

But Group Commander Diamond said this was merely precautionary as they did not believe the smoke to be hazardous.

Some of the debris visible inside the fire-ravaged premises

When asked if there were any fears the building could collapse he said: "That is a possibility.

"[The building] was in quite a state of disrepair and the fire burned away some of the timber which left the brickwork unsupported.

"That is why we have the road closed outside.

"There is a risk of the building collapsing into the canal," added Group Commander Diamond.

Crews had been called into from across the West Midlands to fight the fire

The building was empty and was believed to be in the course of a change of management, he said.

Flames had engulfed the ground floor and the first floor.

Police have monitored cordons in place on roads surrounding the fire

Police were assisting at the scene to monitor traffic in the area.

Nearby roads were also cordoned off as crews contained the fire.

Officials from the Canal and River Trust had been called to monitor the adjourning waterway.

A Canal and River Trust spokeswoman said: "For safety reasons we have closed the Engine Arm Canal and towpath to stop boaters and walkers/cyclists from accessing this stretch whilst the fire brigade deal with the fire.

"The fire brigade remain on site tackling the blaze and there are some concerns about the stability of the gable wall section of the building.

Firefighters pump water from the Engine Arm section of the Birmingham Canal to fight the fire while others assess the building after fears it could collapse into the waterway. Picture: West Midlands Fire Service

"Engineers from the Canal and River Trust are liaising with the local council to determine how best to deal with the situation with a view that the safest way to do this would be to remove the wall once the fire is extinguished.

"Thankfully the building is empty and so far there aren’t any signs of pollution from the water run-off into the canal but we are closely monitoring the situation."

The road closures were expected to last for the rest of the day with firefighters expected to remain at the scene.

Jamie Brassington

By Jamie Brassington
Senior Multi-Media Journalist - @JamieB_Star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star. Contact me at jamie.brassington@expressandstar.co.uk.

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