Health centre evacuated as fire at coffin firm raged

FIREFIGHTERS tackle the blaze at Vic Fearn and Co in Bulwell
FIREFIGHTERS tackle the blaze at Vic Fearn and Co in Bulwell
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PATIENTS had to be evacuated from a health centre as a major fire, caused by a freak accident, ripped through a renowned coffin-company in Bulwell.

Flames destroyed one of three buildings at the Hempshill Lane headquarters of Vic Fearn and Co.

The Dispatch was told by the owner of the firm, John Gill, that the blaze started in a paint workshop at 12 midday on Tuesday (June 21).

It is thought it was caused by a spark from metal works being carried out as part of improvements to the site.

Said Mr Gill: “We believe the spark was carried in the wind for about 20 feet and ignited the paint. It was a complete freak occurrence.”

More than 25 firefighters from across Nottingham were drafted in to tackle the blaze. The business encompasses Crazy Coffins, which specialises in novelty caskets shaped as objects ranging from narrowboats to beer bottles.

Fifteen members of staff had to flee the building, while the nearby Bulwell Health Centre, also on Hempshill Lane, was forced to empty as thick, black smoke filled the sky.

More than 60 members of staff and patients evacuated the health centre, which houses two GP practices, storage space and the Nottingham CityCare Partnership services.

Norma Mardell, the senior health-centre manager, said: “It was like your worst nightmare coming true.

“We had to leave the building and we weren’t allowed back in for the rest of the day.

“The coffin factory is behind the health centre and the flames were raging. I told the staff to get everyone out and to forget about things like cars in the car park.

“It was all very dramatic but it was the sensible thing to do. There is no point in risking people’s safety. The flames could have spread to us.”

One patient with a four-month-old baby was in one of the treatment rooms. She was evacuated in a car.

But Mrs Mardell said “Everyone was pretty calm. The fire service and the police were excellent.”

Nearby residents and businesses were urged to keep their windows and doors shut because of fumes from the smoke.

The building where the fire started was flattened and an adjoining factory suffered smoke damage.

But the company, which builds throusands of coffins each year, was back in production on Wednesday June 22.

Mr Gill said: “It was about as severe as it could get. But the major positive to come out of this is that no-one was hurt.”

Vic Fearn has been running since 1870 and has been based on Hempshill Lane since 1959.

The company featured in the Dispatch last month after commissioning a mural, at a cost of more than £20,000, in tribute to staff who have served the firm for more than 25 years. The mural was not damaged by the fire.