RAF called in to fight Grantham blaze as fears electricity pylon would fall on railway tracks

Support full-time firefighters in tackling incidents, like the recent substation blaze in Grantham. Photo courtesy of Santa Plata.
Support full-time firefighters in tackling incidents, like the recent substation blaze in Grantham. Photo courtesy of Santa Plata.
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Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue’s deputy divisional commander has spoken to the Journal about the unpredictability of last night’s blaze, and how they had to call in the RAF for support and close the railway line due to safety fears.

Dept Cdr Richard Friend, who is based at Grantham fire station, said: “The first call came into us at about ten to five, and two crews were mobilised. At that point it was just small white smoke coming for the area.

The fire at the Grantham substation. Photo credit: Andris Berzins-Sirbu Hmv84k5TFu-GI7KGhWmp

The fire at the Grantham substation. Photo credit: Andris Berzins-Sirbu Hmv84k5TFu-GI7KGhWmp

“We were doing what we call a 360 degree walk around the site, and then that’s when the explosion happened. Fortunately we had moved back far enough by that point, and none of our crew were injured.”

Dept Cdr Friend said they had not been expecting the explosion, and were concerned at the close proximity of a second substation and electricity pylon.

“We were worried that if the electricity pylon caught fire it could have fallen down on top of the railway line. That’s why we had to get the train operators to close the railway line. We are sorry if it caused disruption, and we know it will have been expensive for the train operators, but we couldn’t take that risk. There were 36,000 litres of oil inside the substation.”

Furthermore, the fire service decided to call for back-up from the RAF, due to them having appliances that can shoot foam ten times further, which are usually used for the purpose of extinguishing aircraft.

The substation blaze as seen by firefighters.

The substation blaze as seen by firefighters.

“If we hadn’t had the support from the RAF, I think we would still be there putting the fire out now,” added Dept Cdr Friend. He also praised the police for quickly shutting down the nearby roads and evacuating the area.

He confirmed that the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Giving further details on their involvement, alongside that of the Serco fire and service at RAF Cranwell, RAF Waddington fire chief, Flt Lt Chris Pritchard, said: “There are a number of dangers associated with electricity substations.

“This incident was a technical challenge for Lincolnshire Fire Service but we have a specialist capability which is why they called us in.

“We are used to dealing with air field crash scenarios involving aviation fuel and have our hands on the kit every day and the equipment we carry proved ideal in this case.

“We have a close relationship with Lincolnshire Fire Service and were happy to help them out.”