Crews tackle fire at Langley Green distillery

More than 100 firefighters have been tackling the fire at the distillery

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Homes have been evacuated as firefighters tackle a large fire at a distillery in the Black Country.

More than 24 fire engines were sent to the fire at Alcohols Ltd, in Crosswells Road, Langley Green, which started shortly before 10:00 GMT.

A man in his 20s was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham suffering from burns.

West Midlands Fire Service said crews would be at the scene throughout the night.

A service spokesman said approximately 70 firefighters were making good progress in controlling the fire at the three-storey building which has been destroyed.

More than 100 firefighters from across the West Midlands were at the scene earlier.

A 100m (328ft) cordon remains in place around the site partly due to a number of plastic drums exploding.

Sandwell Council said it was using Moat Farm Junior School as a refuge for those evacuated from their homes.

Affected residents were being found overnight accommodation, it said.

Kerry Hawkins, who lives opposite the factory, was among about 60 people who were moved to the school by West Midlands Police officers.

At the scene

Fire at Alcohols Ltd

There is a heavy police presence on most of the roads around here which are cordoned off.

Although it is getting dark you can still see the smoke rising into the air.

Police have evacuated about 200 houses with many of those people being taken to the nearby school.

I was speaking earlier to a woman who was moved from her home wearing her dressing gown at 10 o'clock this morning and did not know when she would be allowed back into her house.

With the West Midlands Fire Service saying they will be at the site throughout the night, its likely people will not be back in their homes until tomorrow.

The firm is a family run business that has been here since 1805 and distributes alcohol all over the UK.

"I heard the explosions and saw thick black smoke in the air... and the next thing we know we had police officers knocking on our door," she said.

"We've been out since about half past nine this morning and don't know when we're going to be allowed back."

Eyewitnesses described hearing explosions.

West Midlands Police said it had closed eight roads around the factory site and had evacuated homes in Vicarage Street, Crosswells Road, Bloxcidge Street and Vicarage Road.

Ch Insp Ian Marsh said: "People are starting to return from work and school and we need anyone trying to either head home, or pass through the affected area, to be aware that they need to make alternative plans."

Darren O'Neil, whose house backs on to the factory, said he looked out of his bedroom window and saw the fire burning.

He said he then heard a scream and saw a worker "covered head to toes in flames".

A spokesman for West Midlands Ambulance Service said a man in his 20s had been treated at the scene for burns to his back and a hand before being taken to the specialist burns unit at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Window frames melting

Tony Kirkham, who lives near the distillery, said he had seen fireballs going into the air and heard several explosions which "shook the house".

He said: "We saw a Land Rover parked opposite the factory go up in flames, there was nothing we could do to stop it.

"You could also see the window frames melting in people's houses. It was scary."

Mr Kirkham added that residents were worried that the fire could burn for "two to three more days".

Tim Pye, who lives opposite the distillery, said firefighters were dousing down his house.

Scene of the fire from the air People reported seeing the fire from miles away

He said after the fire started he looked out and "just saw orange" and could feel the heat of the fire from his front room.

Debbie Horton, who also lives nearby, said: "I don't know anything - what's going to happen to my house, or the cars that are outside.

"It's very worrying."

People reported seeing thick black smoke from several miles away, including from the M5.

London Midland said it suspended train services between Snow Hill and Stourbridge.

It said the Midlands Metro was accepting tickets to the Hawthorns ground, while Network West Midlands was accepting them on its nine, 120 and 127 bus services.

Surinder Sohal, who runs a nearby business, said he saw flames that were 40ft to 50ft high.

He said: "It's really, really bad.

"You could feel the heat, even standing 300-400 yards away."

The Environment Agency also said it was at the scene to check on the environmental impact of the fire.

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