Fire at Ilford City Gates building collapse site

Firefighters battled an eight-hour blaze at the collapsed City Gates building site in Ilford this morning.

The fire started because of workmen attempting to cut away the remaining steel structure, according to Ilford fire station crew manager Jim Jobson who attended the scene.

The precarious nature of the remaining steel structure forced firefighters to bring it under control from a distance in Clements Road.

Workmen pulled back from deconstructing the steel frame once the blaze began, and no was injured.

The centre, which was under construction, collapsed at around 4.30pm on Tuesday.

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Mr Jobson said: “When the building collapsed you have a lot of combustible material.

“The rubble and concrete collapsed on top leaving the steel structure sitting in a precarious position.

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“The first thing to do [for workers] was to take the steel down, they were using hot cutting.

“The embers have fallen down and ignited the building materials.”

Mr Jobson said “combustible material” on site included timber stored there and insulation boards.

The fire started just after midnight and four fire engines and a hydraulic tower initially attended.

Mr Jobson said: “We had to fight it at a distance.

“It was fairly fierce.

“It was quite well developed when we got there.

“At that time of night there wasn’t really anyone around.”

He said the fire was “reasonably under control” by about 3am and fully under control by 8am.

Crews from Ilford, Stratford, East Ham and Dagenham attended.

Andrew Morris, the business development for Ashe Constuction – the firm contracted to build the Christian centre – said the fire started after embers from the cutting gear ignited a split diesel tank, used to power machinery including forklift trucks.

Mr Morris said plans have been put in place by Squibb Construction, which is carrying out the demolition, in case another fire starts.

Plans to deconstruct a tower crane which hangs over the wreckage have been pushed back until after the steel structure is pulled apart and removed from the site.

Work will resume within the next hour when a second piece of cutting gear arrives at the scene, Mr Morris said.

He said he did not think the fire, and any damage to the wreckage, will hamper the investigation into what caused the collapse.

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