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Youngsters huddled together and prayed

When four children saw the HWP fire from the window of their family's business they huddled together to pray that no one would be hurt.

The quick-thinking cousins held hands at Animal and Garden House in Serpentine Road and prayed that “the fire would disappear without anyone getting hurt and there would be enough money to pay for the damage”.

Elysse McCarron, 11, Ciara Henschke, 12, Logan Henschke, 10 and Seth Henschke, 14, ran upstairs to the company's warehouse window as soon as they saw the fire engines whizzing by just after 2pm yesterday.

Ciara said: “We were looking out the warehouse windows and we saw flames more than 10ft tall. We heard three bangs, they were really loud and the roof collapsed.

“There was so much smoke, you couldn't even see the houses you can normally see.

“We were really terrified, so we prayed together. We just wanted to make sure everything was okay and that insurance would pay for things”.

Logan added that he had spotted about ten fire trucks and “hoses spraying water everywhere”.

He said: “The old metal roof just fell in. We thought BELCO could have exploded and it could come our way. We're so glad it didn't”.

Scores of workers from businesses along Serpentine Road scrambled up their fire exits and onto their roofs to get a better view of the blaze. They took photos, filmed the drama on their phones and phoned their family and friends to tell them what was happening.

The bird's eye view from the rooftops looked down on scores of firefighters spraying the blaze with hoses, while two firefighters moved around on a giant hydraulic lift tackling the blaze from above.

Directly opposite where the workers were standing were about 50 people gathered at the cliff's edge on Cox's Hill in Pembroke.

About 15 workers could also be seen watching from BELCO's yard, including two men who sat on top of a shipping container to watch the drama unfold.

BELCO electrical engineer Kennedy Wainwright rushed to the scene to “make sure it wasn't our yard burning.” He said the fire service started to use BELCO's fire hydrants as an additional water supply at about 2.45pm.

Mr Wainwright said: “By the time we got here the HWP roof was well alight. There was thick black smoke and we heard these popping noises. It's a lot bigger than we thought it would be, it's huge”.

Meanwhile sales assistant Philip Simpson was one of about 40 staff from Gorham's who was sent home for the day when police closed the store down at about 3.15pm.

He said: “We started to smell smoke first of all inside the store and everyone was asking what it was. That was the first we knew about the fire, we could smell it before we saw it.

“We only had a few customers because the road outside was closed off. Then the police closed us down for safety reasons”.

Mr Simpson was waiting for his ride home at the back entrance to Gorham's, while three police officers wearing face masks sat in their patrol car next to him.

At TreeCon about six workers gathered on the roof of their building saying they remained thankful for “the sand and creek” which stood in-between them and HWP.

Michael DeFontes, the controller at TreeCon, said: “This is bad, it's a huge blaze, everything has just gone up in smoke. We've seen the roof slowly peeling back and there's been quite a few explosions.

“This is a pretty serious disaster, all that roof is asbestos and it's all going up in the air and into people's tanks.

“Can you imagine the amount of money this is going to cost? Everything has gone”.

Meanwhile, 90-year-old Dorothy Cann calmly sat on the balcony of her house watching all the action. She said her son, Lionel Cann, who is part of the Salvation Army's emergency response team, had phoned her to tell her what was happening.

She said: “I really didn't believe it would be this bad, it's shocking. I've never seen anything like it.

“It really looks bad and there are going to be a lot of people with smoke damage to their roofs”.

She added: “This is a very sad day, this is going to put a lot of people out of work. Times are already difficult for many and now this”.

Among the smoke and debris: Firefighters in the danger zone battle to put out the inferno at the HWP Group Body and Paint Centre yesterday afternoon.

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Published August 09, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 09, 2011 at 9:21 am)

Youngsters huddled together and prayed

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