Gin distillery a total loss after explosion

OR: Why Building Codes and Zoning Laws are Important

On Monday, November 26, 2012 the Oldbury gin distillery in Langley, Oldbury, UK (West Midlands of England) caught fire and its contents exploded destroying the 19th century facility and severely damaging surrounding residential and private property.

Over 100 firefighters took over 18 hours to extinguish the blaze which caused hundreds of neighboring residents to be evacuated to a nearby school during the battle. The fire inevitably destroyed the 3-story distilling facility, some neighboring houses and cars, and charred the fronts of other homes and property.

Bashir Mohammed – a witness – pointed to a still-standing section of the factory across the street from his home and credited it with preventing his death. “We’re lucky because ultimately that wall has pretty much saved our premises,” he said in a Birmingham Daily Mail article.

The factory was reported to also house “huge 200-litre drums [approximately 53 U.S. Gallons each] of toxic chemicals” which ignited and rocketed into the sky or exploded. Mr. Mohammed adding later, “when you’ve got an industry like this you always have to make sure you’ve got contingency plans, and I think we were failed here.”

The facility has expanded operations since it was originally built in the 19th century and at some point added large tanks of chemicals at the back of the site. One resident stating, “whoever gave permission for this should have been aware that this would be an inferno if it did burn.” Another resident added “…they’ve gone from being a distillery into other chemicals, so close to old terraced houses. I’m shocked that they’re in a residential area yet they were allowed to expand it.”

The owner of the facility, Alcohols Ltd., also stores other chemicals presumably unrelated to gin distillation at the site. These chemicals are said to be used in toiletries, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, cleaning, and surface coating products.

The fire is currently believed to have started when chemicals were transferred from large tanks outside the main building into smaller drums, however; the local fire authority has yet to determine the exact ignition source.

Link to the full articles and video:

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