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'Severe' fire at power station

Around 100 firefighters are battling a blaze at a power station.

Essex County Fire & Rescue Service said firefighters were called to Tilbury Power Station at about 7.46am on Monday.

Some 15 fire engines and three aerial ladder platforms, used to reach higher places, were sent to the scene.

Chief Fire Officer David Johnson, said the blaze was one of the most challenging he had dealt with in his 20-year career. There are currently 120 firefighters working to bring the blaze under control, and the power station has been closed down, he said.

Mr Johnson said firefighting operations have been made difficult by the fact the fire is high up in the main structure of the building, and crews struggled to reach it.

At around 10.30am crews started putting foam on to the blaze, he said, and fire officers had gone up in Essex Police's helicopter to get an aerial view of the site and to pinpoint "hotspots".

"The fire involves 4-6,000 tonnes of biomass high up in the power station building. The fuel goes into vats and is taken into the plant on a conveyor belt," he said.

"The fuel cells are designed to carry dry fuel so pouring water on to them and making them significantly heavier could potentially damage the structure of the building. There is an added complication that when the cells get wet, then dried by the fire, a crust will develop, making it impossible for more water to penetrate the fire underneath. That's why we are looking to use foam.

Opened in 1969, Tilbury previously operated as a coal-fired power station but has been converted to generate power from 100% sustainable biomass until its scheduled closure at the end of 2015.

Biomass plants burn wood pellets, generally made from compacted sawdust or other wastes from sawmilling and other manufactured wood products

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