Keech Hospice evacuated after field fire

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Staff and patients were forced to evacuate Keech Hospice yesterday after a field fire came dangerously close to the building.

Beds Fire and Rescue Service fought the major field fire covering 90 hectares yesterday afternoon near Underwood Close in Luton.

At the height of the fire, patients and staff from the nearby Keech Hospice Care were evacuated to the hospice’s day centre at the front of the building which was deemed a safe area. The fire was contained by the Fire and Rescue Service and extinguished by the early evening.

Liz Searle, CEO of Keech Hospice Care said: “I am extremely grateful for the quick response and excellent support of Beds Fire and Rescue Service and my staff. We do have emergency plans in place in the event of situations like this and we followed our procedure. Keech Hospice Care is functioning as normal today and all patients and staff are safe.

“KeechFest – our 25th celebration garden festival which is taking place at the hospice this Sunday is very much full steam ahead and we look forward to welcoming more than 1,500 members of the public.”

Fire control were called at 5.19pm about the fire in stubble field at Underwood Close, Luton, that spread to cover 90 hectares. The field backed onto the Keech Hospice Care site and the boundary fence had caught alight. Firefighters split their attendance into two with some pumps dealing with the field fire whilst others tackled the fence fire.

Part of the Keech Hospice’s building was evacuated with residents being moved to the hospice’s day centre.  Firefighters contained the fence fire and prevented it from spreading any further. Once this fire was out, Keech Hospice patients were able to move back into other parts of the building.

Group Commander Jason Tai said: “This was a large field fire that threatened the nearby houses and the Hospice. We split our resources into two sectors to prevent the fence fire becoming a danger to the Hospice while other firefighters tackled the stubble fire itself to get it under control so it did not threaten any other nearby properties.

“The incident was further complicated when the hospice became compromised by smoke and the patients and staff had to be moved to the front of the hospice building. Our crews worked closely with our colleagues in the ambulance service and the hospice staff to reassure the residents and their families and assisted in moving them back as soon as the area was deemed safe”.

“Because the fire covered such a large area, at the height of the incident we were assisted by our police colleagues who used their helicopter to provide information to the crews about the movements of the fire, allowing us to relocate firefighters to meet the blaze head on and quickly bring it under control”.

“Our firefighters worked hard and we called in our rural water carriers to keep them supplied with plenty of water during the incident. We got the fence fire under control quickly, protecting the Hospice from the fire, working to extinguish the field fire at the same time. I’d like to thank the crews for their hard work in dealing with this serious incident, they did an excellent job.”

There were no casualties and it is thought the fire started accidentally.  The incident was closed at 7.23pm.