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Revealed: The full devastation left by firm fined £250,000 after fireball

Cars destroyed, homes damaged and lamp posts melted - just some of the damage caused by a devastating Black Country blaze that saw a firm fined more than £250,000 for safety failings.


Alcohols Ltd, the company at fault for the fire, was yesterday fined £270,000 and ordered to pay £25,000 costs.

Residents were forced to flee their homes as flames ripped through the firm's factory back in 2012, burning for 18 hours.

The intensity of the heat left cars wrecked, smashed double-glazed windows and melted front doors, while a member of staff sustained serious burns to his back and face during the inferno.

Flames ignited at the factory, on the corner of Hall Street and Crosswells Road in Langley, when chemicals were being transferred from large tanks into smaller plastic containers.

Around 200 homes were evacuated when flames started to take hold at the factory and families were sent to an emergency centre set up at Moat Farm Junior School.

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard yesterday how a report had already highlighted safety issues at the factory.

However the explosion happened before planned repairs could be made, and was 'most likely ignited by static electricity,' according to a judge.

Alcohols Ltd, a chemical distribution company based at the site for 30 years, pleaded guilty to Health and Safety failures that put staff, fire fighters, tanker drivers and the general public at risk.

Disaster struck when a 21-year-old with six months experience in the job was moving ethyl acetate from giant storage tanks into plastic drums.

An explosion sent flames tearing across the site within seconds and the worker had to roll on the ground to put out his burning clothing, the court heard.

The court was told the firm had compensated the injured member of staff and paid £25,000 in damages to the public.

Judge James Burbidge QC praised the 'skill, expertise and bravery' of the firefighters who had to wade through waste deep water to switch off faulty isolation valves.

H also criticised the delay in prosecuting the case.

Judge Burbidge QC said: "Safety in conducting operations of this kind of process is paramount.

"This factory was close to a railway station, had a bus stop outside and residential properties nearby.

"A company must be very mindful of the areas in which it operates and be ever vigilant to ensure the safety of those operations.

"The inherent danger was known to the industry and most importantly to this company.

"It's most likely that the fire was ignited by static electricity generated by the transfer of chemicals.

"Mercifully the man who was injured survived."

Warehouse worker Stephen Rushton's house was the worst affected by the blaze.

At the time of the fire he described the impact as 'devastating'.

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