GALLERY: Police cordon off streets as fire rips through flat

A major incident was declared today as fire ripped through a top-floor apartment in a Bedford tower block.

Fire and ambulance crews rushed to Richbell Court, off Queen Street, from across the county as police cordoned off the road to motorists.

Fire in  Richbell Court, off Tavistock Street, Bedford PNL-150928-142236001

Fire in Richbell Court, off Tavistock Street, Bedford PNL-150928-142236001

The 14th-floor blaze was tackled by fire fighters using an aerial platform, while others entered the building wearing breathing apparatus.

A Richbell Court resident, who lives on the 10th floor, said he fled the building.

He said: “I was sitting in my flat when I began to smell the smoke. I got out straight away, and saw the top floor on fire.”

More than 40 calls from the public were received this afternoon by Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, from 1pm.

Fire in Richbell Courth, Queens Street PNL-150930-100948001

Fire in Richbell Courth, Queens Street PNL-150930-100948001

A service spokesman said: “The calls started to come into Fire Control at 13.01 and four fire engines and the Aerial Platform were mobilised to deal with it. This was made up at 13.19 to six pumps.

“When the first Firefighters arrived at 1.10pm, they put into practice their procedure for dealing with fires in high rise buildings. Using breathing apparatus, fire hoses and a cover jet they tackled the blaze in the kitchen of the flat on the fourteenth floor of the building. They soon had it under control and by 1.30pm it was extinguished.”

He added: “The fire caused 50 per cent damage to the kitchen and 100 per cent smoke damage to the property, with Firefighters using positive pressure ventilation to clear smoke from the building. There were no casualties and a fire investigation is underway.”

The incident was closed at 2.02pm with Firefighters remaining at the scene to deal with the scene.

Station Commander Trevor Gradwell-Smith who was in charge of the operation said: “Firefighters fought a difficult fire involving a flat on the fourteenth floor of the high rise building.

“These types of fire pose difficulties to fire crews due to the building’s complex layout and the long travel distances upstairs to get to the fire. The height can cause problems with fatigue but we have procedures in place that enable us to deal with such situations. We used the lift to get to the twelfth floor, two floors below the fire, making this our bridgehead to attack the fire two storeys above us.

“I’d like to commend the Firefighters involved for their quick action which limited the spread of the fire and caused minimal water damage to adjacent properties. Our procedures and training all paid off and this fire, while difficult to deal with, was efficiently dealt with by our skill, professional crews.

“These kind of fires also alert us to the need for people to have working smoke alarms in their properties. These can alert neighbours to a fire in your home even when you might be out.”