Agencies Admit Lessons Will Be Learned Over Littleport Fire

A DELAY in declaring a fire at Mufitt s Industries in Littleport a Major Incident may have hindered the efforts of emergency services in the early stages, a report has suggested. Several of the agencies involved in handling the incident agreed that confus

A DELAY in declaring a fire at Mufitt's Industries in Littleport a Major Incident may have hindered the efforts of emergency services in the early stages, a report has suggested.

Several of the agencies involved in handling the incident agreed that confusion around whether the fire should have been declared a Major Incident from the outset may have caused delays in getting specialist equipment and resources to the scene.

The conclusions were made at a de-briefing meeting where several agencies, including the Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) discussed the overall response to the incident.

The fire at the tyre recycling plant on Wisbech Road, took place in August 2009 and saw fire crews spend more than one month battling to extinguish around 200 tonnes of shredded rubber material.


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The fire was the first of its kind in the UK and many of the agencies involved faced unprecedented challenges in dealing with the scale of the incident.

In the de-briefing report, it was suggested that some specialist resources and equipment were not immediately available to help deal with the incident because of initial uncertainty around whether to escalate the incident to the highest emergency level.

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When Major Incident status is triggered, many agencies are then given access to specialist equipment that is otherwise kept on standby ready to be transported anywhere in the country.

The report also highlighted that communication teams acting on behalf of the agencies found it hard to get information to the public quickly and easily.

Yvonne Bartram, who owns stables directly opposite the site where the fire took place, welcomed the report: "I agree with many of the conclusions made in the report especially around getting information out to local people. I found it hard to get help and advice from any of the agencies and I think that needs to be improved."

Graham Stagg, chief fire officer at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service said:

"The purpose of the multi-agency debrief was to look at what we felt we all did well and what we would improve for next time to ensure that any improvements in the way that each agency works are implemented.

"Hindsight is a great thing and so it is important that we hold a debrief to reflect on what we should do differently next time, and highlight where things went well to identify best practice.

"In terms of how the incident was tackled as a whole, by all agencies involved, we have identified a number of areas where we could feel we could work better as a multi-agency group in future, such as quicker processes for signing off of public statements and also trigger points for each agency to declare a major incident.

"We have incorporated these and other recommendations into our plans for the next 12 months, and we have recommended a number of improvements to be considered by the Local Resilience Forum.

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