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Olympic Park warehouse blaze caused by contractor, concludes ODA

The ODA today published findings from its investigation into the warehouse fire that occurred last week in the north of the Olympic Park during demolition work.

The ODA's investigation has established that the fire, which occurred at Unit 35, Waterden Road, on Monday 12 November 2007, was caused by the ignition of insulation material within the walled cavity of the building during demolition work.

The main findings are:
- The fire was an accident. There were no suspicious circumstances.
- The fire was caused by the ignition of insulation material while steel piping was being cut using an oxy-acetylene torch.
- Monitoring has not detected asbestos in the air around the building during and after the fire or in dust and debris following the direction of the smoke plume.
- 'Hot working' during demolition of similar buildings has been temporarily suspended while a review of procedures is carried out.

ODA Chief Executive David Higgins said:"These findings confirm initial indications both that the fire was caused by accident while the warehouse was prepared for demolition and that public health was not put at risk. It also recognises that the site staff, emergency services and other bodies worked quickly and effectively together in their response to the fire. However this was a serious incident and we are instigating a thorough review of our stringent health and safety procedures as a result."

Though the building did contain asbestos monitoring of the air, dust and debris around the warehouse and under the direction of resulting smoke, on the afternoon of the fire and the following day, did not detect asbestos. Professor Virginia Murray, Head of HPA London's Chemical Hazards and Poisons Unit said: "In terms of public health surveillance, no adverse health effects have been reported so far."

During the cutting process, polystyrene insulation ignited and fire spread rapidly within wall and roof cavities within the building. Initial attempts to douse the fire failed and the building was evacuated and the emergency services called. All safety response procedures were followed in full and there were no injuries.

Any cutting required during the demolition of similar buildings on the Park is currently being undertaken strictly by 'cold work' processes and 'hot working' procedures are being reviewed.

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