Automatic alarm triggers midnight evacuation

FAMILIES in St Neots faced a midnight evacuation of their homes last night (Wednesday) as 50 fire-fighters and seven appliances responded to an automatic alarm at a Cromwell Road factory. St Neots Leisure Centre was set up as a rest centre with staff on s

FAMILIES in St Neots faced a midnight evacuation of their homes last night (Wednesday) as 50 fire-fighters and seven appliances responded to an automatic alarm at a Cromwell Road factory.

St Neots Leisure Centre was set up as a rest centre with staff on site fully prepared and ready to deal with an evacuation within an hour, as Huntingdonshire District Council's rehearsed emergency plan swung into action. In the event, after the police helicopter failed to detect any sign of fire in the factory, the arrangements were stood down at 4am.

The fire service said crews were wary about the presence of thousands of litres of petroleum spirit on the premises, and trains on the East Coast main line were stopped to reduce the risk of a spark from the 25 kiloVolt igniting a suspected vapour cloud.

Firefighters with gas detection equipment found no one trapped inside and no sign of fire, even though foam extinguishers had deployed automatically.

A fire service spokesman said today after further investigation that there appeared to have been no fire, and it was up to the company to investigate the cause of activation of the alarm and foam deployment.

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