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Fire chief: lives at risk after huge arson blaze at derelict building
MARLOW’S fire chief has warned that lives are being put at risk after the latest in a series of arson attacks saw crews battling a derelict building fire for over 10 hours.
Six fire engines, including half of the team Marlow team, raced to the blaze at the former Water Research Centre in Medmenham on Saturday evening.
The building, empty for over a decade, was almost completely destroyed despite a 10-hour operation by firefighters from Marlow, High Wycombe, Stokenchurch and Henley.
And Watch Manager Richard Boast, whose team has been called out repeatedly to the site, says much-needed resources are being diverted to deal with the crimes.
He said: "I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been called there, it must be double figures.
"We definitely know it is arson, there are no electrics there anymore and it is a very difficult site to secure.
"It looks like they are getting old bits of furniture and setting light to it, but this time it did quite some damage "With the way we tackle fires we do it as safely as we can, but there is always a point when someone could get injured by a fire that shouldn’t have been started in the first place.
"I’m more concerned about the resources it is taking up when we go there. We could be somewhere else where we are needed, someone could have a genuine emergency.
"They also have to remember that something could go wrong and they could injure themselves doing it."
The riverside complex was bought by the Kodak pension investment company after the Water Research Centre relocated to Swindon in 2003.
It received planning permission for a large office building over 10 years ago, and despite several renewals, no work has yet begun.
Medmenham resident Keiran Millard claims the site has been plagued with problems including people sleeping rough in the abandoned buildings.
And he said villagers are keen to see action taken after yet another callout for the fire service.
He said: "It is obviously an eye sore, as well as the problems with fires we have had people living in it. But you cannot secure it 100 per cent, it is a huge site.
"We would like to see it developed even if it is just a case of it being cleared and turned over for park land.
"It just needs to be something more than what is there at the moment."
Malcolm McPhail of Lamron Developments, which is involved with the site, said: "We intend to bring the property to the market for sale over the next few months with the benefit of the residential consent which will include demolition of the existing buildings.
"We are aware of the recent fire at the premises - and will be taking measures to secure the property to prevent future trespassers gaining access."
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