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INVESTIGATIONS were launched yesterday into the cause of a fierce blaze which devastated the production process at a Northumberland stone-making company. The emergency services were alerted at about 4.15am as the fire ripped through a range of buildings at the Newbiggin Artificial Stone Company, which has been based in the town for more than 25 years.

At the height of the blaze, more than 35 firefighters and six appliances were at the scene, and an aerial ladder platform was brought in from the Tyne and Wear brigade to rain water on the flames.

The fire covered an area of 60m by 50m and destroyed several single-storey buildings at the dressed stone production plant.

But it was brought under control in less than an hour.

Firefighters set up a protective spray to prevent the fire spreading to two residential bungalows and administration buildings at the site.

Damping down operations continued for 12 hours and the company's production process was completely put out of action because of the extent of the damage.

Fire investigators were at the site - at Links Quarry off North Seaton Road, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea - yesterday afternoon, but have said it will be some time before they can determine the cause of the blaze.

Northumbria Police officers were also at the scene to ensure members of the public using local coastal footpaths did not stray onto the site. The company, which is believed to employ about 20 people, supplies the house building trade, but has also provided specialist stone for renovation work on London's Tower Bridge and other projects all over the country.

Northumberland fire and rescue service group manager Lee Buckingham said: "This was a well developed fire in a number of industrial buildings when we arrived, and it damaged the production line, machines and equipment.

"Flames were coming through the roof when we got there and we had to increase the number of appliances because water supplies in the area were limited. We were able to quickly contain the fire and prevent it spreading to other buildings.

"A member of the arson task force has been on site today, which is standard practice for incidents like this, but at this moment in time there is absolutely no indication as to the cause."


AFTERMATH An arson task force member was on site at the Newbiggin Artificial Stone Company yesterday
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 26, 2010
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