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Eastern Daily Press: Calls for Bacton fire cover review

01 March 2008 05:09

Calls have been made for Bacton gas terminal to reinstate its own on-site fire crew after Thursday evening’s explosion at the complex.

But last night terminal operators Shell and the fire service said they had full confidence in their “excellent” response to the emergency, which saw crews attending from across the county.

Yesterday a five party investigation – with experts from Shell, the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency, police and fire service – began into the cause of the blast in the waste water system at the Shell terminal.

Shell said it could not speculate on the extent of the damage or cause of the blaze until the investigation was complete, or say how long the plant will remain shut down.

But North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said the fact that there were no firefighters stationed at the Bacton site needed to be looked at urgently.

He said: “There needs to be a review and that is critical. It does seem quite surprising that that there is no on-site fire service.

“I do not know whether it was removed without people knowing but I would like to know what the justification for it was.”

Questions have also been raised about the age and reliability of the closest appliance to the scene at Mundesley fire station.

Don Paulino, plant manager for the Shell site, said the emergency services were in the best position to know how to deal with an incident and he was pleased the operation “went like clockwork”.

The close liaison they had with the emergency services meant they had a competent team to deal with an emergency.

He said: “The plant has been run very safely and we will continue to make it safe. We await the results of the investigation.”

Mr Paulino added that issues such as providing money to upgrade the Mundesley fire station would be dealt with on a “case by case basis” in consultation with the emergency services.

More than 74 firefighters with nine appliances attended the blaze. The retained crew from Mundesley, closest to the blaze, arrived within eight minutes.

Assistant chief fire officer, Mike McCarthy said on-site service provision was a matter for Shell but plans in place were well-rehearsed and exercised regularly.

He said: “Our crews did an excellent job. They responded very quickly and dealt with the fire in a highly professional manner. We are confident in our arrangements, not only for Bacton but for the surrounding community.”

Some residents also raised concerns the police telephone warning system failed to alert them until the incident was over.

A Norfolk Constabulary spokesman said: “The planned communications worked well. We sent out the message at the earliest opportunity as soon as we were confident that we had all the correct details for a useful and informative communication.”

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