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Fireworks Warehouse Owner Banned and Fined over Blaze

An explosion at a fireworks warehouse which sent thousands of shells and rockets bursting into the nighttime Somerset sky, has seen the boss of the company fined and banned from being a company director for 5 years.

Andrew Collins of Firemagic Ltd admitted 2 breaches of health and safety regulations and a further 3, as the sole director of the company.

The court was told fireworks were not stored correctly in a secure storage area once they had been fused, when the fire swept through the warehouse the fireworks went off like the 4th of July. Also the warehouse was full beyond the legal capacity.Storing such a quantity of fireworks is very dangerous indeed.

An Avon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service spokesman who described the scene upon his arrival said some fireworks caught alight causing "an impromptu display", which lasted 40 minutes. "It was pretty spectacular when we first got here," he added.

The explosion was loud enough to be heard six miles away and the conflagration that followed was enough to completely destroy the factory and 2 adjacent businesses.

Three members of staff at the factory were taken to hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation and shock.

The fire broke out in the tool room of the warehouse, where a worker was testing detonators. Staff was working late at night during the busy Guy Fawkes season when one of the men spotted a small flame coming from the tool room. Going against training - and common sense - the men tried to fight the fire themselves. After they emptied 6 fire extinguishers in a desperate bid to save the building, they were forced to flee and call the fire service.

There was a series of serious mistakes and incidents of carelessness that led to the fire. It seems that 2 policemen, who were on the site fitting CCTV equipment - due to burglaries at the premises - witnessed 30 cartons of fireworks on the floor of the warehouse. The police also saw a bonfire lit during the day less than 20 metres from the wide open doors of the warehouse! This is strongly denied by Mr. collins.

Firemagic Ltd pleaded guilty to the charge of over stocking the explosives site and exceeding the maximum gunpowder weight limit.

Sentencing Collins, Judge Lambert said: "Training was so inadequate that when fire broke out workers tried to tackle it themselves against the regulations, putting their health and safety and ultimately their lives at risk. Figures for damage exceeded £300,000 and one man had his business ruined." He didn't order Collins pay the council's costs, which ran into six figures, due to his inability to pay.

Mr Fuller - speaking on behalf of Mr. Collins - said the company admitted to overstocking fireworks but had been misled by the Chinese firm it imported fireworks from as to their explosive content, taking it over the limits of its licence. He also said Collins had been involved in the fireworks industry since he was 19 and had an impeccable safety record at thousands of displays.

He went on to add that Mr. Collins was genuinely remorseful about the incident, especially about the damage caused to his neighbours.

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