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Wood pellets at power station blaze

A huge blaze which broke out at a power station in Essex, in an area containing about 4,000 tonnes of wood pellets, is still being tackled by firefighters.

There was concern about the structure of the building at Tilbury Power Station, as water sprayed on the pellets was increasing their weight.

But firefighters have since gone into the heart of the blaze with foam spray to deprive the fire of oxygen.

Plant owners RWE npower said: “All our employees have been accounted for.”

Essex chief fire officer David Johnson said it was proving “physically and technically challenging” to bring the fire under control but this could be achieved by mid-afternoon,

“We were able to establish it (the building) was safe so we put a few crews in.”

The smoke is clearing at Tilbury B power station in Essex.

Firefighters are increasingly confident that they are getting on top of a blaze in two of the large hoppers that feed biomass wood pellets into the furnace.

It’s hot, dirty work and they need to wear breathing apparatus and protective suits. Visibility is also low.

Power station engineers are working with senior fire officers to decide the best way to tackle the blaze.

Normally they would use water but there were fears that the weight of water needed would cause the hoppers to collapse.

Nonetheless even when the fire is out it will take several days to clean up the burned out hopper and repair any damage caused.

They reported back on the conditions they found.

“We’re applying specialist high-expansion foam which we hope will starve the fire of oxygen. This won’t cause the structural problems that putting water on it would.

“It’s very hot and it’s very smoky in there and we still have fears for safety should the building collapse.

More than 120 firefighters, 15 fire engines, three aerial ladder platforms and a mass foam attack unit have been tackling the fire.

Extra fire crews were called in from London and further afield to deal with a separate unrelated fire in a wood pile on a nearby dockside.

Talking about the power station fire, witness Robert Richards told BBC Essex: “The whole of that north block just went completely up in flames.

“It was on two sides that I could see. My daughter could see it from the other side of the river.”

Tilbury Power Station was built to burn coal but was recently granted consent to burn biomass fuel and wood materials.

Biomass plants burn wood pellets, generally made from compacted sawdust or other wastes.

Mr Johnson said it was too early to say what caused the blaze.