More than 100 people evacuated from their homes in Walsall to escape toxic fumes after a suspected arson attack at a recycling plant have been allowed to return home.
Police officers wearing face masks helped evacuate residents in their nightclothes to get them away from the fumes containing asbestos following the blaze at AWM Recycling in Moxley, on Wednesday morning.
Nearly 100 firefighters spent most of the day tackling the blaze and managed to put out the flames by 3pm. Damping the area down afterwards was expected to take a further 24 hours.
Ambulance crews were on standby in the area, ready to offer assistance to anyone feeling unwell as a result of the fire. Several local roads were also closed following the fire at 4am.
Duty Inspector Ade Webb, at Walsall Fire Station, said crews had to search for bodies on the site after spotting people entering the plant on CCTV cameras.
“Fortunately no bodies were found, which does lead us to believe that the fire may have been started deliberately,” he added.
Sgt Lloyd, of Bloxwich Police, said: “Fortunately, everyone who had been evacuated from their homes have been told they can go back home now.
“We were very concerned by reports from the fire service that people had been seen entering the premises and that no people had been found at the site.
“This does lead us to the idea that it may well have been the work of arsonists, but we will have no possible idea on that until forensic teams have been allowed into the site, which will hopefully happen on Thursday.”
In the aftermath of the blaze, Walsall council have issued a precautionary warning to residents, asking them to stay indoors with windows and doors closed.
Walsall Council leader Mike Bird, praised the efforts of emergency services.
He said: “Once again we must praise the excellent job that the emergency services have done in responding to this very large fire. It goes without saying that any help we can give we will be more than happy to offer.”
Walsall Council is arranging clean-up of asbestos-containing materials burnt in the fire which may have dropped into the surrounding area.
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