Strachan & Henshaw Building, Foundry Lane, Bristol

On Friday 3rd of May 2019, just after 6.20 pm, an intense fire broke out in a workshop on the ground floor of the Strachan & Henshaw Building, Foundry Lane, Bristol. We have an interest in this building due to the sheer level of mobile and back-haul equipment on the roof. This is a major communications site in its own right, many, many customers from across multiple networks connect via this site. EE claims it will be business as usual by Sunday 5th May and Three saying by Wednesday.

Due to the number of calls and the severity of the fast developing fire, control made 10 pumps available, shortly scaling up to 11 with 76 fire fighters on the scene. A 200m cordon was established and firefighters were denied internal access due to the number of gas bottle explosions and intensity of the fire.

The fire quickly spread and within no time, the whole lower level warehouse complex was ablaze. The explosions quickly intensified the fire which led to the 44 nearby homes being evacuated and loads of local roads closed as toxic smoke poured out and filled the surrounding area.

The amount of smoke could be seen from miles away, with council officials announcing health warnings to the locals with advice to keep doors and windows shut.

Explosions like fireworks -Best viewed with sound

As the fire continued to intensify, dusk quickly turned night as the next level of the warehouse complex began burning. Bristol Water diverted water to ensure the firefighting supply to contain the increasingly developing fire.

As the fire spread to the units above, it quickly spread throughout the entire site as 1000’s of gallons of water was sprayed on.

Work continued throughout the night from every side in difficult conditions, however, the fire continued to intensify consuming the scrap yard on the rooftop carpark.

Avon & Somerset’s police drone, backed up by Almonbury police helicopter assisted the firefighting efforts by aerial photography, highlighting the full extent of the fire.

Heat/Thermo imaging shows the true extent of the fire with the whole warehouse now on fire, threatening the tower. By now, power would be out and the mobile equipment will be running of battery, The Three equipment on the lower roof will be failing due to the fire taking hold.

Within no time, the super-heated smoke scaled the tower and put the EE equipment at danger. You can see the Three mast on the lower roof on this photo.

As the fire spread onto the roof of the warehouse and up the tower, anything combustible caught fire. Aerial platforms concentrated efforts on saving the tower and containing the massive warehouse fire.

We believe parts of this building go back to the 1920’s with the tower being built in the 1940’s. Since Strachan & Henshaw moved out after being acquired by Weir in 2000, the site was sold for an undisclosed fee to Alan Dykes, Arcade Plus Ltd and has since been left mostly vacant.

Over 40 businesses call this place home, with most of the roadside lockups and rooftop carpark being used for motor repairs and salvage.
A carpentry firm, a well-established packaging firm and many more smaller businesses throughout. In the office tower, a music recording studio in the basement and a swingers club on the 4th floor, The rest appears to be vacant.

Over the years, more of the building is becoming derelict with a number of fires and enforcement action for dangerous electrical systems and extensive asbestos in poor condition. It was noted that fire exits are used as toilets as most of the toilet facilities were not in working order.

Recent plans have been provisionally approved to turn the tower block into 70 small flats, which would have forced most of the businesses from the lower warehouses out. There has been a number of illegal raves and the landlord pleaded guilty in court for breaching enforcement notices. Sentenced to 8 months in prison, it now appears work was carried out replacing the warehouse roof and starting work with the electrical systems.

Orange and Mercury setting up masts in 1999, before the building was sold to the landlord. Since then, EE and Three have continued to use this location, with fall prevention and protected access being installed for future upgrades. EE have an extensive tower top location with Three using the lower roofs for coverage and backhaul.

At around 4.30 am, EE, Three and Vodafone started reporting network issues in the area, we’re unsure of how widespread this is, however, we expect masts in the surrounding areas will become congested. The visuals from the recent fire show how catastrophic this fire was and will ultimately see the demolition of this building.

We think EE will deploy emergency drones, balloons and masts, while three will utilise other masts nearby. EE has a much bigger job with the amount of hardware this place housed for them. We expect the landlord to be netting over £30k a year from these arrangements.

Check out this visual timeline

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Before the fire

It Started in the ground level units below the tower.
Fire quickly spread to the entire ground floor
The fire and explosions intensified as the next level of warehousing went up in flames.
The morning after, showing the full extent of the devastation with the tower still ablaze internally
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