A Blakenall Heath furniture workshop was gutted by fire in the early hours of yesterday morning.
The blaze destroyed stock, fittings, buildings and a delivery van as it ripped through the yard and worksop at the rear of popular dealer Peggy’s Place in Barrack’s Lane around 3am.
All but the shop facing onto the lane, which remains open for business, was destroyed, leaving charred wood, furniture, materials and debris surrounding the van, which was rendered a write-off.
Owners believe the fire may have been started deliberately in the workshop area before spreading to other parts of the courtyard.
Co-owner Matthew Cooper has said that around £10,000 – £15,000 worth of stock has been destroyed in the incident. Apparently the yard has been targeted by thieves and vandals in the past, with tools being taken.
Firefighters from Bloxwich Community Fire Station and Fallings Park attended following the alarm being raised by neighbours, and worked for more than four hours to put out the blaze, concluding that work around 7.30am yesterday.
They have not yet been prepared to comment on the precise cause of the fire as an investigation is underway, with investigators examining the scene in detail for clues. Police were also due to attend later.
If any report is forthcoming we will update this news item in due course.
Special thanks to Mr Ian Morton-Jones for supplying the exclusive photographs of the aftermath of the fire above and to Peggy’s Place for the picture of the shop.
Local residents are being advised to stay in their homes and keep the windows closed following a fire at a furniture factory in Bloxwich.
Fire crews from Bloxwich, Walsall, Willenhall and West Bromwich were called to the single storey brick building at D.F. Jones in Willenhall Lane after the fire broke out just after midday today.
The blaze caused the road to be closed in both directions between the Leamore Lane junction and the Fryers Road junction.
Five fire appliances and an hydraulic platform were called to the scene. Thankfully, no one was in the factory at the time of the blaze and there have been no reports of injuries.
West Midlands Fire Service have said that part of the building has collapsed. Gas and electricity supplies have been isolated by the utility companies.
West Midlands Fire Service also alerted Walsall Council’s pollution control officers as some cement asbestos material from the roof, believed to be a lower risk type, has blown over footpaths, roads and garden areas.
Specialist contractors are in the process of clearing this material away this evening and residents, who have all been given a letter of advice, will be told when it is safe to leave their properties.
Councillor Mike Bird, portfolio holder for Public Health with Walsall Council, said:
“I understand asbestos material from the roof of the factory has blown over footpaths, roads and garden areas.
“Officers have advised that this appears to be a lower risk type of asbestos which is commonly found in industrial-type buildings.
“We are asking residents to stay in their homes while this clean-up is carried out and expect it to be finished later this evening.”
The cause of the blaze has not yet been reported.
The Health Protection Agency is aware of the incident.
Photo courtesy Bloxwich Old & New (click on photo to visit page)
Throughout February the National Fire Safety Campaign is concentrating on fires arising from cooking.
Indeed, many years ago the family of The Bloxwich Telegraph’s editor suffered a chip pan fire which destroyed their kitchen, but thankfully the house was saved by Bloxwich firefighters – so we know just how important this campaign is!
Somewhere around 60% of all accidental house fires begin in the kitchen and can be prevented by following simple guidelines.
Take care if you need to leave the kitchen whilst cooking, take pans off the heat or turn them down to reduce the risk.
Make sure saucepan handles don’t stick out – so they don’t get knocked off the hob.
Keep appliances clean – keep oven, hob and grill free from a build up of fat and grease that can easily ignite and start a fire.
Use a deep fat fryer rather than a traditional chip pan – modern fryers have thermostats that prevent the oil from overheating and are far safer than traditional pans.
If you should experience a fire in the kitchen turn off the heat if it is safe to do so. Do not attempt to tackle the fire yourself. Get out, stay out, AND CALL 999!
If you require any further advice, please contact your local firefighters on 0121-380 7552. If you would like a visit from us to discuss all matters of home safety, please call 0800 389 5525.
Why not also check out our Fire page with the latest campaign poster? REMEMBER – being aware of the dangers of kitchen fires could save your home – and your life!
Kitchen fire image provided by West Midlands Fire Service
It will be no news to many readers of The Bloxwich Telegraph that over the past few years there has been an increasing trend in the area for historic local pubs in particular to close and, having deteriorated over time, whether by misfortune or by intent, to either be demolished because of their poor condition or, something which has become a blight on the borough of late, ‘spontaneously combust’.
This latter event seems to happen either ‘accidentally’ due to people breaking in and smoking etc or – as seems more and more often to be the case – as a result of deliberate arson. Yet no-one ever seems to be brought to justice.
In Walsall town itself, there is now a disturbing trend for large,historic, often former industrial buildings, to be let fall into disrepair and eventually go up in smoke. Some of this at least is clearly due to deliberate arson, for what purpose we can only conjecture.
There has been much speculation off and online by local people as to whether there is a definable pattern to this, and what is or should be being done about it. In an area which has lost so many of its historic buildings to often ill-considered ‘redevelopment’ in the past 150 years we cannot afford to lose any more of our built heritage.
Perhaps more importantly to many minds, this plague of conflagrations which seems to be sweeping the Walsall area is bound, if it continues, to result in loss of life, whether public or within the emergency services, and damage to other properties, including both homes and businesses. The whole of Station Street and Navigation Street could easily have been destroyed as a result of the recent act of arson committed on the massive former Boak Ravenscraig leather works, for example.
This whole sorry matter has clearly come to a head now, and at the AGM of Walsall Civic Society earlier this month, angry questions were being asked by members about the plague of fires and derelict heritage buildings, and what was being done about it by Walsall Police and Walsall Council in particular.
This week the Civic Society has written to the local press, the Council and the Police raising the matter in no uncertain terms. Their letter, sent on the Society’s behalf by the Secretary, John French, is as follows:
Walsall in Flames
To whom should we assign blame for the regular disappearance of historic buildings in Walsall?
Certainly to the man or woman with the box of matches. But that is too easy. What about owners who care too little for their buildings to arrange appropriate maintenance and security?
What about the Council itself which fails to exercise its enforcement powers on recalcitrant owners? What about the Police whose investigations are fruitless, if they happen at all?
Nationally listed, Iocally listed, historically interesting, or architecturally interesting buildings have a value to the whole community not just to their legal owners. This point seems to have escaped all the above, they should wake up to it.
The concerned citizen of Walsall borough can hardly argue with the questions asked and sentiments expressed above.
This appalling and ongoing state of affairs in the Walsall area has understandably also exercised the active and rightly outspoken Twitterati of Walsall, as well as the borough’s prominent blogosphere.
The latest stage of the debate, which has been facilitated by historically-inclined local activist and blogger Brownhills Bob in his post “After the fire had gone out – an appeal’, is also about what can be done in a practical way to raise the profile of, in particular, historic buildings at risk, bring them to the attention of the Council and others, and perhaps make a record of them for posterity. Hopefully this will eventually develop into a community-led initiative in this regard.
The Bloxwich Telegraph certainly supports the initiatives of both Walsall Civic Society and Brownhills Bob and other local people as well as anything that Walsall Council and the Emergency Services can do.
Also, the members of the Walsall Flickr Group are very heritage minded, and this is very much a topic of conversation there, where you’ll find many a sad but well-taken photo of the demise of the Boak Ravenscraig Works at the moment – check it out via this link.
We would like to encourage you, our readers, to join in the debate and express your concern about the accelerating loss of our built heritage, whether it be by neglect or by criminal activity. We invite you to do all of the following:
Write to the local newspapers.
Email your local blog.
Contact your local Councillor and express your concern.
Write to Walsall Council, Walsall Police and West Midlands Fire Service and ask them what they are doing about this.
Keep an eye out for buildings at risk and report them to the authorities.
Let us know at The Bloxwich Telegraph about any specific concerns you have for historic buildings in Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath, Leamore or Birchills.
Firefighters from Walsall and Willenhall were called at 0049 hours on Sunday to properties in Moorside Gardens, Birchills, to attend a group of shed fires. One shed measuring 6m x10m was completely destroyed, and four further sheds 20m x 4m overall were also badly damaged. The call required 3 pumps, two from Walsall and one from Willenhall.
Bloxwich will be a riot of colour next weekend as the borough’s first bonfire and firework display gets under way.
The bonfire at King George V Playing Fields will be lit at 7pm on Saturday 29 October.
Fireworks will delight the crowd from 8pm-8.20pm.
Hundreds of visitors visit the bonfires, organised by Walsall Council’s parks team, every year.
John Millard, Walsall Council senior park ranger, said: “We’re counting down to the first of this year’s three bonfire events and are looking forward to another huge turnout.
“Supervised bonfires are the safest option for all and we’re very proud of our colourful firework displays which are well praised every time we stage them.”
Food is available at the bonfire event along with children’s rides.
Entry is £3 for adults, £1 for children and free for under fives.
For safety reasons visitors are not allowed to bring their own fireworks or sparklers to the event. No alcohol is allowed and under 14s must be accompanied by an adult.
The park rangers still need hundreds of wooden pallets to build the bonfires and are asking businesses, factories and supermarkets to rally round.
John added: “Our bonfires are massive and take some building so any help is much appreciated.
“We have been well supported in previous years by businesses from all over Walsall, as well as slightly further afield, and we hope to attract the same level of support this year.”
Anyone who is able to donate and deliver pallets should contact senior park rangers John Millard on 07736 388409 or John Morris on 07736 388418.
Police and fire services at the scene of the tragic incident in Leamore (Pix: Stuart Williams)
POLICE in Walsall have today named a man whose body was found at a fire in Bloxwich Road, Leamore.
Gary Ford of Bloxwich, 32, was discovered when police and fire-fighters were called to the blaze on open ground (formerly The Butler’s Arms) at the rear of Somerfield’s Supermarket/Texaco Pertrol Station at around 6pm during the early evening of Wednesday 4 May.
Mr Ford had suffered serious burns, but a post mortem to determine the precise cause of death has proved inconclusive. Further forensic tests are now to be carried out.
At this stage, detectives are continuing to treat his death as unexplained and are making a fresh appeal for witnesses and information to throw light on the circumstances surrounding Mr Ford’s death.
The scene of the crime: site of the now-demolished Butlers Arms Detective Inspector Bob Bradford, from Force CID, said: “It is not yet clear exactly how Mr Ford died or whether there is any criminality involved either in his death or the cause of the fire.
“However, it is a matter of fact that he was badly burned and that we are still trying to gain a clearer picture of both his personal background and what happened.
“It is important to the inquiry for anyone with information to come forward. The scene of the fire is just off Bloxwich Road, which is a busy route and would have had a fair number of motorists using it at around 6pm on Wednesday.
“We are also keen to trace three youths or young men who were walking along the pavement adjacent to the scene at around 6pm to 6:15pm. They may well have seen something significant and we would stress that they could be vital witnesses.
Anyone with information should contact Force CID at Bloxwich by ringing 0345 113 5000 or calling Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.