Fire at Stafford industrial cleaning company
A large fire at an industrial cleaning company caused explosions and sent fireballs into the air over Stafford.
Witnesses described seeing barrels of oil being thrown into the air as the blaze tore through Global Hygiene, on Astonfields Industrial Estate.
Nearby schools were closed with homes and businesses in a 50m radius evacuated.
A worker suffered minor burns but there were no other casualties, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service said.
The company said the blaze broke out in a building that was under construction.
Fire crews battled to stop it spreading to up to 40,000 litres of industrial oil. Sixty firefighters tackled the blaze at its height and some were expected to remain at the scene throughout the night.
Two nearby schools - St Patrick's Catholic Primary and Nursery School and John Wheeldon Primary School - closed early because of the smoke and fumes, and hundreds of residents were evacuated.
The fire, which was declared a "major incident", was reported by a worker at the industrial cleaning supply firm at about 08:45 GMT.
A fire brigade spokesman said there was "a large quantity of oil - a 40,000-litre container of heat transfer oil" on the premises, but it was not alight.
Emergency services used the nearby Stafford Rangers Football Club a few hundred yards away as a command post to organise the firefighting effort.
Drummond Road was closed at the junction with Astonfields Road and motorists have been warned of reduced visibility.
And Dr David Kirrage, from Public Health England, advised people to stay out of the smoke and to avoid the area.
He added: "From the information we have at the moment we do not believe there are any particularly harmful chemicals in the smoke but we know that any smoke acts as an irritant and should be avoided."
BBC Radio Stoke's Chris King at the scene
One eye witness, John Bromley, the chairman of Stafford Rangers FC, described to me barrels of oil "thrown into the air" and "mushroom-shaped" explosions as the fire took hold.
The flames have largely been extinguished and you can see the warehouse has been reduced to a blackened shell.
That said, a 50m exclusion zone remains and the firefighters' work isn't done.
I understand some people evacuated from their homes earlier could be spending the night in a local hotel.
A director of Global Hygiene said in a statement: "There was one person in the building at the time the fire started and he was evacuated safely.
"Some of the neighbouring units on the technology park were also evacuated to ensure the safety of everyone on site.
"We are very grateful to the fire services who responded very promptly to the emergency call."
He added it was too early to comment on the cause of the fire and said an investigation was under way.
A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said the worker with minor burns did not require hospital treatment.
Sarah Kearney, who works nearby, said: "We came in to work at about 9am.
"I sat down, looked out of the window, there was thick black smoke.
"In the last hour it just got thicker and thicker. We saw explosions, balls of flame."