INVESTIGATIONS are continuing into a fire that destroyed a tallow factory on Gunnedah Rd, Tamworth on Friday night.
Tamworth NSW Fire and Rescue Inspector Grant O’Regan said the building was well alight when they arrived.
He said there were two staff members on site working, so they had a clear indication of where the fire started, but the cause was still being investigated.
The staff members moved to an evacuation point and suffered no injuries.
Inspector O’Regan said the factory, being made of steel with insulated sandwich panels on the walls and ceiling with foam inserts, meant the fire took hold and was difficult to stop.
“The insulation is common in cool rooms and once that foam insert burns, there’s no way you can stop it,” he said.
“When crews arrived, they had to do defensive operations, which meant they couldn’t enter the building, but they did a terrific job of maintaining the spread of the fire.
“There were issues with overflow material inside and a concern that animal product would drain into the Peel River, so we had to stop that.
“Water supply was also a minor issue.”
Old Winton Rd resident Jackie Blanch was returning from dinner when her and her daughter spotted the fire.
“There was one fire engine there at that stage, so it must’ve been fairly early in the piece,” she said.
“I happened to have my camera with me and the back was just on fire at that stage. The tower wasn’t on (fire) then.”
Mrs Blanch said they didn’t realise how big the fire was until it spread to the front of the factory.
“We heard a loud bang, an explosion, and then the front part went up as well,” she said.
“It was certainly pretty dramatic, but there was no smell whatsoever. You couldn’t even smell the smoke, but as we drove away, you could see the huge plumes of smoke backlit by the lights of Tamworth. When we got home, there’d been a blackout.”
NSW Fire and Rescue and Rural Fire Service crews and police attended the fire at about 9pm on Friday after reports of the incident.
Nearby residents reported hearing explosions during the fire.
Although the Baiada rendering plant was badly damaged, firefighters managed to save the administration building that sustained broken windows on one side from the heat of the blaze, but was otherwise unscathed.
Tamworth RFS Inspector Sean Barton said the administration building was separated from the factory by about 10 metres, so they were able to save it.
There were four NSW Fire and Rescue and three Rural Fire Service crews in attendance.
Inspector O’Regan said NSW Fire and Rescue crews were at the fire until 1am then RFS crews maintained a fire duty with it.
n The Rural Fire Service was also kept busy at the weekend with bushfires across the region. See page 4 for more details.