Leamington Spa fire – 'Apocalyptic' blaze visible from space set to burn for days as 'toxic' plastic rains from the sky

LEAMINGTON Spa's "apocalyptic" inferno is visible from space with cops warning it will blaze "for days".

Warwickshire Police have urged residents against touching or clearing up the toxic plastic raining from the sky, smothering homes and gardens.

The horror unfolded Friday morning at Leeson Polyurethenes Ltd, which stands next to the town's Rosalind Franklin Covid "mega-testing" lab.

It was rocked by a series of explosions and a massive fire, with startled residents saying it was like "like bombs going off".

As the blaze broke out, others reported "strong chemical-like smells".

New pics show chunks of charred polyurethene littering residential areas.

Shocking satellite photos show how clear weather has trapped the toxic plume above the stricken area.

Warwickshire Police said in an update: "Emergency services remain at the scene of the fire on Juno Drive in Leamington Spa tonight.

"We would like to reassure residents living in the surrounding areas that there will be an operation to remove fallen debris tomorrow.

"As a precautionary measure, the public is advised not to touch or attempt to clear debris in the meantime."


Tony Ennis, director of Haztech Consultants, warned: "Polyurethane fires can generate cyanide gas as a by-product of combustion plus carbon monoxide (also toxic) and a number of other potentially toxic substances.

“The combination of toxins in the smoke plume may cause distress, particularly to anyone who has existing lung or breathing complaints.

“The best advice is to stay indoors and close all doors and windows securely until the smoke abates. This will minimise exposure to the toxins in the plume.”

Reading Uni, which has shared the space pics, said: "Smoke from the Leamington Spa fire can be seen from space thanks to dry and still weather conditions in the UK.

"The black plume of smoke, many miles long, can be seen travelling south-west on this [satellite] image."

Smoke can contain hazardous particles of tiny sizes which can penetrate into the lungs.

Dr Claire Ryder, an atmospheric scientist at the uni, added: "Smoke can contain hazardous particles of tiny sizes which can penetrate into the lungs and cause respiratory problems.

"It would be advisable to stay away from the smoke altogether, or if not possible then keep windows and doors shut, and wear a mask outside to help filter out microscopic airborne particles which may linger in the air.”

The toxic chemical warnings come as police continue searching for an "unaccounted" worker after homes were evacuated.


Supt Mike Smith, of Warwickshire Police, said the person being sought "works at the premises that caught fire today.

"We do not know at this moment in time what has happened to that person.

“We know who that person is. We are working with the family of that person and they are being supported by specialist officers.”

He confirmed that everyone else from the lab was "currently accounted for".

Smith added: "We have evacuated everyone within 100 metres of the fire and our advice currently is that everyone within 500 metres should continue to remain indoors and close their windows and doors."

The lab processes hundreds of thousands of coronavirus tests daily.

It was confirmed Friday afternoon that workers testing samples were rushed to safety "as a precautionary measure".

The sky is dark with smoke and ash.

In an update from Barnaby Briggs, chief fire officer at Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service, it was revealed that the cause of the fire was still being investigated.

He added on Friday night: “The firm makes specialist adhesives and it is from polyurethane.

“There are a number of vats involved in that process.

“They have pressure release valves – as they heated up the pressure release valves went.”


There were reports of several explosions and people vomiting in the street after being choked by the toxic fumes spewing out of the industrial estate blaze.

One witness said it was like a scene from "a disaster movie. Apocalyptic stuff".

Stephen Morris, 48, who lives in the town, said: "I've never seen anything like it in my life.

"We were in the garden earlier and heard what sounded like a bomb go off.

"It was like a loud pop. The next thing you know, there's a massive cloud of black smoke rising into the sky, it was like something from that film Independence Day.

"It's just lingering over the entire town now and I've never known so much police and fire activity here, they must have sent every appliance they have to it."

What looked like barrels were flying up into the air – a good four or five.

Carl Roberts told Coventry Live: “I thought it was going to be a big fire, but within minutes it was really bad.

“I was looking out of the back door – that’s when the first explosion went and we decided to leave ourselves.

“What looked like barrels were flying up into the air – a good four or five.”

Another resident Jan Butler, 52, added: "Smoke has just engulfed everything, people are having to leave their homes, it's crazy really.

"I've stayed well away but I have friends nearer who say there's been a strong chemical-like smell coming from it as well."

Mum-of-one Terri Fitzgerald, 31, said: "It has been quite frightening to be honest and to hear somebody is missing is just horrible.

"It was like a volcano going off, the smell and the smoke has been choking people.

"Bits of plastic have been falling from the sky. We're just staying put until its all over."

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Staff at the Rosalind Franklin Laboratory have been evacuated as a precautionary measure and all emergency incident protocols are being followed in order to protect their safety.

“We continue to work closely with the fire and emergency services on this ongoing incident and testing will resume as soon as it’s safe to do so.”  

It was like something from the film Independence Day

Public Health West Mids advised: "People in areas affected by smoke from the fire should stay indoors, keep doors and windows closed and check the local radio for advice.

"Motorists should keep their windows closed, turn on air con and keep air vents closed.

"Substances in smoke can worsen health problems like asthma and heart conditions, so people should carry their medication if near the fire in Leamington Spa.

"Smoke can irritate airways, skin and eyes and cause coughing and wheezing, breathlessness and chest pain. Get medical advice if affected."


West Midlands Ambulance Service said earlier: "We received a call to a significant fire on Juno Drive in Leamington Spa at 10.38am.

"This is an industrial premise approximately 50m x 30m and well alight.

"We have multiple appliances in attendance, including 12 pumps and two aerial appliances."

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