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AWE chiefs look to dampen fire fears
STAFF at the Atomic Weapons Establishment have played down the four-hour fire in August which caused neighbouring families to be evacuated.
The fire began in a building in the explosives manufacturing section of the Aldermaston complex and left a man with burns to his arms and face.
Members of AWE’s Local Liaison Committee inspected the site last week to take a closer look at the building for themselves.
The committee is made up of about 30 district and parish councillors as well as AWE Chief Executive Officer Robin McGill and other representatives from AWE and its regulating bodies. It usually meets four times a year.
Tadley Town Councillor Mike Broad, who attended the meeting last Thursday, said: “The chief executive said that as a result of adverse publicity, they would take the committee to see the building that was the source of the fire.
“We couldn’t go inside because it is still being investigated but we came within about five yards of it. It was about 30 foot by 20 foot with mounds of earth around it up to about 10 feet high with what looked like plastic sheeting on top. Part of the roof was burned and we were shown photos of the inside but if you hadn’t been told there was a fire you wouldn’t have known.”
Cllr Broad, who previously worked for AWE for 37 years mainly in electronics and has some explosives knowledge, added: “The actual fire was contained in the vessel in which the fire started. It was a solvent fire, but they didn’t say what they were doing with the solvent. Something like this was very minor so they let the fire burn itself out and the man who was burned was dealt with by first aid. He didn’t have to go to hospital.”
The councillor said there was nothing unusual about the meeting and that the committee is often taken on site visits.
Mr McGill said: “We wanted to show local councillors that the building is intact and has suffered minor damage in what was a relatively small fire.
“There have been some inaccurate reports about the scale of the incident and it is important that LLC members are in a position to reassure local people.”
An investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing and will be shared with the public.
Meanwhile, a separate investigation is being undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive.