Fire-ravaged Smethwick factory at risk of collapse
Up to 50 firefighters tackled a huge blaze at a disused factory which has led to fears the building could collapse.
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
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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 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.
"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.
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