Employment and business

Roads closed and businesses still affected by aftermath of Kingsway underground fire

Shoot of flames being doused in water from street cover during Kingsway fire. Image:@LFB

Shoot of flames being doused in water from street cover during Kingsway fire. Image:@LFB

An investigation continues into what caused the underground fire in Kingsway last Wednesday that took nearly two days to extinguish.

The blaze has been responsible for huge losses to businesses and major damage to the power supply cables and road and street infrastructure.

Road closures remain in force and businesses continue to be affected.

Camden Council says: ‘Businesses that have suffered losses as a result of the fire should contact their insurers.’

Thousands of people were evacuated and over 70 firefighters working with power utility companies took nearly two days to extinguish the blaze thought to have started in below street cables that spread along underground tunnels.

Flames were recorded shooting upwards from the pavement and tall buildings were enveloped in thick smoke.

Height of fumes caused by Kingsway fire. Captured by helicopter camera. Image: @NPAS_Redhill

Height of fumes caused by Kingsway fire. Captured by helicopter camera. Image: @NPAS_Redhill

The London Fire Brigade operation needed the help of a National Police Air Service helicopter whose thermal detection camera revealed intense ‘hot spots’ running beneath the pavements of one of central London’s busiest roads.

It was not until Easter Sunday that the London Fire Brigade were in a position to announce:

The fire in the service tunnels along Kingsway, Holborn has been extinguished. Once the gas supply was isolated the flames died down.

National Police Air Service thermal camera reveals intensity of the fire from the air. Image: NPAS_Redhill

National Police Air Service thermal camera reveals intensity of the fire from the air. Image: @NPAS_Redhill

London Fire Brigade is likely to be at there throughout Sunday looking into the cause of the fire but we have now handed the responsibility for the incident over to Camden Council as the Local Authority who will work with  National Grid and UK Power Networks who will be working to restore gas and electricity supply to local homes and businesses.

LFB firefighters needed to examine all the service tunnels to check ‘the integrity of the structure.’

The Met Police said they’d been made aware by partner agencies that ‘some areas around Kingsway affected by last week’s fire are unlikely to be fully opened for business after the Bank Holiday weekend.’

The closures will continue to affect the running of public transport services in the area.

Camden council are asking for patience from local residents and businesses whose lives have been turned upside down nearly a week on from the blaze:

We have been working our utmost with emergency responders, UK Power Networks and National Grid to reconnect homes and businesses and to make the area safe but this has been a complicated incident.

Our priority throughout the whole incident has been to ensure people’s safety.

As a result we have had to ask for a bit more patience from businesses before the area can be fully open for business.

Although most of Kingsway has now reopened to pedestrians, restrictions to road traffic remain in place along both carriageways of Kingsway until at least Wednesday.

Commuters have been advised to consider alternative routes to work on Tuesday.

Part of Keeley Street and Great Queen Street remain closed.

Camden council is not in a position to confirm arrangements for deliveries to premises in Kingsway.

Businesses have been told to check the council’s website for updates concerning deliveries.

Richard Beddoe, Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for city management, said there had been a ‘massive impact’ on businesses in the area.

We do not fully yet know what caused the fire in Holborn on Wednesday. However, pavements have exploded in central London previously and it is a very worrying trend. Our message remains the same – we want to see better investment in the capital’s infrastructure, as it benefits the whole UK.

The cost of the fire is expected to run into millions of pounds.

Theatre shows were cancelled.

Large administrative and commercial businesses operate in Kingsway and it has a thriving footfall of retail premises stretching from the Aldwych to Holborn.

These have been closed or substantially disrupted for nearly seven days.

Businesses specializing in entertainment and tourism expected the Easter weekend to be one of the highest revenue periods of the year.

Kingsway is a major feeder route to the Covent Garden area, the Strand and London’s theatre land as well as straddling the City and the West End.

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