Warehouse collapses as 50 firefighters rush to tackle huge blaze

A factory has collapsed after it was ravaged by a massive fire this evening.

Emergency services dashed to the building in Walsall, West Midlands, after distressed members of the public saw flames soar into the sky.

Witnesses described the dramatic scenes as "like something out of a film".

Now a wall and the top floor of the derelict warehouse have crumbled, Birmingham Live reports.

West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service says more than 50 firefighters are tackling the blaze at the site which was due to soon be turned into 200 plush apartments.

Residents – including young families – have been evacuated from housing nearby and refuge has been set up at Walsall Town Hall.

Fire crews, police officers and representatives from Cadent Gas, South Staffordshire Water and Walsall Council are conducting the huge multi-agency operation.

A spokesman for the fire service said: "The roof has been totally destroyed with nothing but one corner left standing.

"The outside brick walls are peeling outwards like plasticine.

"Huge plumes of smoke are pouring out of the building and filling the evening sky. Despite the efforts, the smoke does not stop and I’m told the building is expected to collapse."

Four incident support units have dashed to the scene for West Midlands Ambulance Service.

Martin Wulfran, 36, saw the fire. He said: "I could see loads of smoke from the rear of Walsall Art Gallery. I knew it was a substantial fire.

"When I got here there was a lot of grey smoke.

"To start with the blaze must’ve been fierce.

"People who own their cars and had parked near the building were speaking to the police.

"I think some cars had been damaged."

Deputy leader of Walsall Council, Adrian Andrew, said: "I’ve been told there have been some evacuations.

"My concerns are for public safety and the safety of emergency services.

"It’s been derelict for at least ten years.

"It was due to be 222 apartments. They had planning and it was a case of getting all the land ready."

The council, which has no overall control, has also helped the residents evacuate their homes.

They'll be put up in hotels if it is unsafe to return to their addresses tonight.

The derelict factory was an old leather-works called Greatrex House.

Planning permission was granted last year for the apartments to be built on the site.

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