Buncefield explosion: St Albans firefighters remember blaze

December 11, 2015, marks ten years since the explosion and fire near Redbourn, at the Buncefield Oil

December 11, 2015, marks ten years since the explosion and fire near Redbourn, at the Buncefield Oil Storage Terminal, in Hemel Hempstead. - Credit: Photo supplied

As flames leapt hundreds of feet into the sky, a St Albans-based firefighter joined counterparts from 22 services to help tackle the Buncefield blaze.

December 11, 2015, marks ten years since the explosion and fire near Redbourn, at the Buncefield Oil

December 11, 2015, marks ten years since the explosion and fire near Redbourn, at the Buncefield Oil Storage Terminal, in Hemel Hempstead. - Credit: Photo supplied

Darren Bassill, currently crew commander of Red Watch at St Albans, was on duty, working at Hemel Hempstead Fire Station as crew commander, when he was awoken by an explosion from the oil storage depot on December 11, 2005.

The Redbourn man told the Herts Advertiser: “I was asleep at the time and there was a massive explosion, like a thunderclap. The whole station vibrated from it. You could see the whole skyline glowing brightly so I knew it was a big fire.”

Jon Batchelor, who was in charge of the first fire engine at the scene, said: “As we arrived at the business park we could see flames climbing hundreds of feet into the dark sky. It was a scene of utter devastation.”

Darren recalls feeling the searing heat from the burning tanks at the depot, which received, stored and distributed fuels including petrol, diesel and aviation fuel. He and other firefighters immediately searched premises, including the nearby Maylands business park, for injured or trapped people.

December 11, 2015, marks ten years since the explosion and fire near Redbourn, at the Buncefield Oil

December 11, 2015, marks ten years since the explosion and fire near Redbourn, at the Buncefield Oil Storage Terminal, in Hemel Hempstead. - Credit: Photo supplied


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One office he visited had shards of glass stuck in the walls.

Sixty people were treated for injuries but, amazingly, nobody was seriously hurt or killed in the explosion or subsequent blaze.

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As a result of the Buncefield incident, improvements have been made in the way that fire services work together and plan for similar events in future.

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