FIREFIGHTERS told how they battled desperately to bring the raging inferno at the Triangle shops under control.
Station officer Mark Eagleton, who was first on the scene to respond to the blaze with crews from Basildon’s Green watch, said their efforts were hampered by cooking oils and aerosols, which caused several explosions at the height of the fire.
The fire also spread rapidly due to the shared roof space between all of the shops at the Triangle on High Road, Langdon Hills which meant once the fire broke out at one property, it was not contained by any walls and spread wildly.
Mark said crews realised the fire was serious as 999 operators at the fire service’s control received not one but multiple calls from members of the public reporting the blaze at around 1.50pm on Thursday.
Within seconds three fire engines - including two from Basildon and one from Orsett - as well as a specialist aerial ladder platform, allowing firefighters to tackle blazes at height, were on their way to the blaze.
When firefighters arrived at the scene they were quickly informed by staff from both McColl’s newsagent and takeaway Hong Kong House that all staff and customers had been evacuated to safety.
Mark said: “Once we had determined that everyone had been accounted for we had to determine where the fire had started to get to the seat of it.
“It started in the Chinese in the extraction system so I committed a crew in breathing apparatus to locate the seat of it.
“But within a couple of minutes we had to withdraw the crews because the roof structure had become unstable .”
Mark said the crews faced an uphill struggle to bring the fire under control as they were battling against explosions caused by highly flammable cooking oils in both takeaways as well as aerosols exploding in the fierce heat at Elizabeth Louise Hair and Beauty.
He explained: “It was difficult on so many fronts. The extraction system in the Chinese was full of cooking oils so we had to use specialist foam to contain that.
“We also used the aerial ladder platform to act as a water tower to spray water on the buildings from above, which at times was making the foam damp.
“The weather conditions were also not helpful as it was damp and windy.
“Also, all of the shops in the whole complex share a roof space.
“This meant there was no seperating walls between any of the shops and all of the properties are linked to each other, allowing the fire to spread.
“When we got there 60 per cent of the roof was well alight, making it very difficult to fight the fire.”
Mark said it took crews around three hours to finally bring the raging inferno under control and he paid tribute to their hard work.
Firefighters monitored the smouldering ruins of the five shops throughout Thursday night and on Friday morning returned to the blaze site to dampen down any remaining hotspots.