Binman credited for spotting Oxfam charity shop fire in St Albans

PUBLISHED: 12:20 22 February 2016 | UPDATED: 12:20 22 February 2016

Firefighters tackling the blaze at the Oxfam charity store in Chequer Street, St Albans. Photo courtesy of @Redbournfire/Twitter

Firefighters tackling the blaze at the Oxfam charity store in Chequer Street, St Albans. Photo courtesy of @Redbournfire/Twitter

@Redbournfire/Twitter

The fire which ripped through the third storey of St Albans’ Oxfam charity shop in Chequer Street yesterday (Sunday) is believed to have been caused by a storage heater in the building.

Thousands of pounds worth of stock has been ruined by fire at the Oxfam Charity Shop, Chequer Street, St Albans. Pictured surveying the damage is Natacha Terrot, Oxfam's area manager for Bucks and HertsThousands of pounds worth of stock has been ruined by fire at the Oxfam Charity Shop, Chequer Street, St Albans. Pictured surveying the damage is Natacha Terrot, Oxfam's area manager for Bucks and Herts

Up to £15,000 worth of stock was lost in the blaze, which has resulted in the temporary closure of the shop.

A spokesman for Herts Police said that officers were called to the store following a report of a fire in the building, above the Oxfam shop.

Officers closed the road between Victoria Street and Holywell Hill to allow the fire service to extinguish flames from the third storey of the charity.

The spokesman said the fire was not being treated as suspicious.

Crew commander Darren Bassill, St Albans Fire Station, said the service was alerted to the fire at about 6.40am.

He said: “We believe it was seen by a binman working nearby. Luckily it was spotted early, otherwise it would have been well involved by the time we got there.

“Two fire trucks from the St Albans station went there, along with crews from Garston and Redbourn, because of the location of the fire, and the building itself.”

Darren said the heat of the blaze broke glass in the window fronting Chequer Street.

Firefighters, wearing breathing apparatus, scaled a nine-metre-high ladder to access the centre of the blaze on the third storey, “after we had squirted it through the window to knock it back, so we could go in safely”.

The fire was extinguished by 7.30am, with crews remaining at the site until 9am to ensure embers were dampened, and there was no further smouldering.

Darren said: “We had to go into the loft above the third floor to check it, but there was no fire damage there, just smoke.”

He said the blaze was suspected of being started from a storage heater near the window, which had bags of clothing and other donated goods close by.

Darren said it was “lucky that the building was unoccupied at the time, and that the fire was spotted by the binman. If it hadn’t been spotted early, it could have been a massive fire.”

• While the store is temporarily closed, Oxfam hopes to reopen this week and take donations to replace the lost stock from this weekend. More details in this Thursday’s Herts Advertiser.


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