London Fire Brigade

LFB150 - The 2005 Buncefield fuel depot fire

11 December 2016

As we celebrate our 150th anniversary we're looking back at some of the most significant and some of the more unusual incidents that have taken place since we were formed in 1866.

On 11 December 2005, the largest peacetime fire in the UK broke out at the Buncefield fuel depot.

By the time the fire was finally extinguished four days later, a total of 16 fire services from around the country, including London Fire Brigade, had joined in the firefighting effort.

The fire started when an explosion occurred at 0601 near one of the oil storage tanks.

A further two explosions later occurred and flames from the fire grew to overwhelm another 20 oil tanks.



The flames and explosions could be seen and heard for miles around, with reports as far away as Uxbridge and Milton Keynes.

By 0608, the emergency services had announced the situations a major emergency and Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Services began the huge task of tackling the blaze.

At the height of the fire there were 25 fire engines, 20 support vehicles and 180 firefighters at the incident.

'I'll never forget my night in what seemed like Armageddon'

Assistant Commissioner Tom George attended the incident as a relief Station Manager for a night shift on the Tuesday night and ended up spending over 15 hours at the scene.


 


"I remember arriving and seeing two lanes of the nearby dual carriageway completely taken up by High Volume Pump (HVP) lines of hose.

"Walking around the scene was a really eerie experience, the smell of burning oil everywhere with foam being blown around the site."


 


"I was placed in the Water Sector and our task was to maintain the water supply to the scene from pressurised supplies and a nearby lake."

Firefighters had created a curtain of water between the burning tanks and the intact tanks to stop the fire from spreading further.

By the time all the fires went out, Buncefield fuel depot had lost a third of its inventory.