Industrial estate evacuated after Ocado warehouse blaze

A Hampshire industrial estate is being evacuated after a major fire at an Ocado warehouse that took more than 24 hours to bring under control.

The Walworth industrial estate is being evacuated due to the risk of toxins being released or a large cylinder exploding, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said.

Around 200 firefighters were drafted in to tackle the blaze at the site in Andover, which broke out at 2.44am on Tuesday and spread overnight, causing substantial damage.

On Wednesday evening the fire service said properties will be evacuated within a 500-metre exclusion zone and a 1.6km stretch based on wind direction.

A rest centre has been set up at Harrow Way Community School.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Andy Bowers said: “We have a risk of a toxic release or a large cylinder explosion.

“There is a phased evacuation of Walworth industrial estate taking place as a precaution and a rest centre has been set up.

“We are working extremely closely with all of our partners to keep the public safe.”

Firefighters at the scene of the warehouse blaze
Firefighters at the scene of the warehouse blaze

The fire was declared a major incident as it swept through the Ocado warehouse and locals were urged to keep their windows and doors shut due to the smoke.

Ocado said the fire, which started in a corner of the ambient grid, caused substantial damage to the majority of the building and its contents.

Part of the roof collapsed, but the firm confirmed no members of the Ocado team or the public were injured.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said four firefighters had been treated for slight smoke inhalation.

The #OcadoFire is now under control and is no longer a major incident

— Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (@Hants_fire) February 6, 2019

One local tweeted during the blaze: “Just streets away – the noise, heat, smell and light pouring from the Ocado warehouse is frighteningly real.

“120+ firefighters are risking their lives tackling the blaze. Makes you truly appreciate the brave men and women of the Fire Service!! Thank you. Stay safe.”

Ocado stressed it has comprehensive insurance for the property, stock and equipment and for business interruption losses.

“Once we have had time to assess the damage and prepare a plan to return the CFC (customer fulfilment centre) to operation we will update further as appropriate,” Ocado said.

A plume of smoke rises from the site in Andover
A plume of smoke rises from the site in Andover

The online grocer saw its shares tumble by 8% on Wednesday as it said it would see a fall in sales growth until it can shift operations to other warehouses.

Its hi-tech robotic warehouse provides around 10% of Ocado’s warehouse capacity, processing more than 30,000 orders a week.

Ocado said it had been forced to cancel some customer orders because of the fire and it was “working hard to resume normal service as soon as possible”.