Apr 22 2012 by brett gibbons, Sunday Mercury
PEOPLE were warned to keep doors and windows closed in an asbestos scare following a fierce fire at a Birmingham factory yesterday.
More than 50 firefighters tackled the blaze on Saturday morning at Chidlow and Cheshire in Spring Hill.
Flames and plumes of smoke could be seen from several miles away at the height of the blaze.
Roads around the industrial unit, which manufactures spares and accessories for the automotive industry, were closed for most of yesterday and fire crews were damping down the wreckage after bringing the blaze under control.
The alarm was raised at 3.45am and fire crews from the Black Country and stations across Birmingham rushed to the scene.
Local authority teams were sent to the site to monitor levels of asbestos contained in the badly damaged roofing materials.
Mark Lawton, a station commander at West Midlands Fire Service, said: “Ten fire engines and a hydraulic platform were alerted to a severe fire at the single-storey factory unit.
“Teams from Ladywood, West Bromwich, Hay Mills, Sheldon, Oldbury, Aston, Highgate and Ward End spent several hours fighting the blaze and stopping it spreading towards a nearby housing estate and other industrial units.
“Five main jets and a monitor on the hydraulic platform were used to control the fire.”
The fire chief said levels of asbestos in the roof turned out to be low but precautions should still be taken.
“As a fire service, we would class this as a low level of asbestos, but we would urge residents nearby to keep their doors and windows closed if there is any smoke,” added Mr Lawton.
“We have called in a local authority team to help clear debris and the asbestos from the fire.”
Buses had to be diverted in the aftermath of the fire and police officers were used to control traffic heading into the city centre for weekend shopping and to attend Birmingham’s St George’s celebrations.
The factory unit is situated in Steward Street, near the City Hospital in Winson Green.
Fire crews were expected to spend most of the day cleaning up after the blaze and traffic was disrupted for much of the day. The cause of the fire was last night still under investigation.
Chidlow and Cheshire employs about 20 people and specialises in the manufacture of clips and cables for batteries.
It is not the first time the factory has hit the headlines. In September 2007 police investigating a break-in at the premises discovered an unexploded World War Two bomb being used as a doorstop.
At the time factory owner Graham Chidlow admitted: “We’ve been at this factory since 1964 and the bomb itself was here when we arrived. It had been used as a doorstop ever since. I had no idea what it was!”