‘I heard screams and this man cry out. It was then I realised something terrible had happened’: Dramatic eyewitness account of fire near Hatfield Forest
- Credit: Archant
THE dramatic escape of a workman from a fire-engulfed industrial unit near Hatfield Forest has been recounted by an eyewitness.
James Chambers, 42, who lives in a bungalow near a number of workshops at Hatfield Park Farm in Bush End, Takeley, rushed to the aid of a man, believed to be in his 50s, after hearing a loud bang and a man’s screams shortly before 10am this morning (Thursday).
He told the Broadcast the victim, who was airlifted to hospital after suffering severe burns, collapsed at his feet after stumbling out of the burning building.
“He managed to get himself out but was obviously in a lot of pain and badly hurt. I got him up and away from the building while I was on the phone to the fire service,” Mr Chambers said. “The guys who work at the garage next to his workshop came to help too and we laid him down in a safe place on the lawn.
“He was really quiet and I had to ask him a lot of questions to keep him conscious. It was awful to see because his burns were very bad.”
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Mr Chambers said he believed the blaze may have started when a patio heater exploded, although fire chiefs refused to speculate on the cause.
Eyewitnesses posted pictures of the fire on social media site Twitter and smoke was said to be billowing up to 40 metres into the sky.
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“I didn’t even realise it was a fire at first,” Mr Chambers added. “There was just a bang, which was obviously the explosion, and when I came out of my home I heard screams and this man cry out. It was then I realised something terrible had happened and everything just became a bit of a blur.
“The two workmen from the garage went to tackle the flames with fire extinguishers when we discovered the blaze but it had no effect so they came out again.”
Upon discovering the flames, Mr Chambers went to get his eight-year-old son in case the blaze spread to his bungalow next door.
“In no time at all the whole building went up. It was a massive fire,” he added. “Fortunately my home isn’t damaged.
“It is awful what has happened and I hope the man is OK.”
The incident caused disruption to Hatfield Forest visitors. The attraction’s car park was briefly closed to cater for the large number of emergency response vehicles. Six fire crews from Dunmow, Harlow, Chelmsford and Bishop’s Stortford were called to the scene along with police, an ambulance, rapid response vehicle and Hazardous Area Response Team (HART).
An Essex Air Ambulance helicopter landed in a nearby field before airlifting the injured man to Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford.
He is now reported to be in a stable condition.
The road to Hatfield Forest, opposite the Green Man pub, was sealed off by police from Stansted Airport – called to assist due to the incident’s close proximity to the Uttlesford transport hub – as a precautionary measure. It had been feared the building, measuring 20 metres by 20 metres, may have contained chemicals.
This was later found not to be the case and the 600m safety cordon was lifted.
Crews, who had to tackle the fire with poor water supplies due to the remote location of the industrial unit, wore breathing apparatus and used three hose reel jets to extinguish the blaze by 12noon.
Firefighters were still damping down at the site this afternoon and an investigation has been launched to establish the cause of the fire.