'It was mayhem' - residents living next to Speedibake blaze feared their homes would go up in flames

Residents living closest to Speedibake have described the moment the factory went up flames, fearing their homes would be next.

Monday, 3rd February 2020, 3:17 pm
Updated Monday, 3rd February 2020, 3:28 pm

The huge building caught fire on Saturday afternoon shortly after 1pm, and residents living on Lawefield Way were told to evacuate their homes.

Shane Mars, who lives in a flat just across the road from the bakery building, explained: "The first I saw was the smoke going past.

"It was that close I thought the flat next door was close to catching fire.

The blaze taking hold with the Lawefield Way homes to the right of the picture. (supplied by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service)

"The speed in which it went up was just scary. I could just not believe it, it was mayhem.

"It makes you wonder what it was that made it go up like that so quickly and what was so flammable.

"I couldn't believe how quickly it got out of control, it was just horrendous.

"If the wind had been blowing in our direction all of these flats would have gone.

The blaze taking hold with the homes on the right of the picture. (supplied by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service)

"The smoke that night was horrendous, and at the time people did not know if there was asbestos in the smoke, that was scary."

Tim Blank, who lives on Lawefield Way, said he had noticed a small amount of smoke when leaving home on Saturday afternoon, and returned later in the day to find that his street had been closed.

He said: “It was a nightmare trying to get into here. There was a policeman at the end of our road, he was signalling to me to not come down the road.

“I pulled up and said that everyone’s been evacuated. We have a dog, so I came for the dog and then left and we went to my parents.”

The factory this afternoon.

Tim and his girlfriend, Kirsty, returned home later that night, after a neighbour let them know the road had been reopened. They were relieved to find that their house was unscathed.

“I was expecting the house to be black from the smoke,” Tim said. “But we’ve had no damage, it smelled a bit funky - though not like doughnuts.

“Yesterday a representative came round from Speedibake and told us the fire started near a cold room that had polystyrene in the walls, so that might be the smell.

“The whole of Wakefield must have driven down this street to stop and take photos. This is the closest bit of road you can get to that building.

The blaze ripped through the factory.

“It’s the first real bit of news that I’ve been close to in all my life.

"It was a shock waking up on Sunday and seeing the devastation it’s caused, for us to look out the bedroom window and see it.

“I’m blown away by how quickly that was caused. It’s one of the worst things in the world, fire, it’s so devastating.”

At its peak, there were 20 fire engines and 140 firefighters at the scene trying to bring the flames under control.

The town was covered in a cloud of black smoke as fire crews rushed to the scene.

Not only residents but parts of the city centre including The Ridings Shopping Centre, were evacuated as a precaution during the blaze.

Fears that the smoke contained asbestos particles were later dismissed.

Jean Larkin, who has lived in her flat for over two years, had been out in Wakefield city centre when she began receiving calls about the fire.

She said she was forced to stay at her sister's on Saturday night but had no idea if he home had been affected.

She said: "I got back on Sunday morning and there was just so much smoke and it was still really windy.

"I was really frightened thinking I may not have a flat left. I did not realise it was as serious as it was.

"When I saw the building I just thought 'Oh my Lord'."

Hillary Shuttler, of Lawefield Lane, said she was returning home when she first saw signs of the fire, and initially believed the smoke was coming from Thornes Park.

She said: “We were coming towards Wakefield and as we crested the top of the hill we saw the smoke. As we were stuck in traffic we saw quite a lot of fire engines turn into the park and we thought it was there.

“We got back just in time. We were worried about the chickens, they live at the bottom of the garden.

“We can smell it a bit but we’ve been so lucky that the wind blew the other way.

“If the wind had been blowing [this way] it could have caught our trees.”