What started as a “small fire” at Bedford’s ‘North Wing’ Hospital last night, turned into a major emergency with over 60 firefighters from across Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire battling for over six hours to keep it under control.
- Shires House completely destroyed
- No damage reported to the clinics in the Health Village or Archer House
- Healthwatch Bedford Borough say all MSK appointments for 4 January are cancelled
- Cause of fire still unknown
Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) crews from Bedford were on the scene first at around 6pm but quickly called for support from Kempston.
Luton fire crews attended with an additional aerial platform to assist with spraying water onto the buildings from above.
Fire fighters from Sandy, Ampthill, Woburn, Biggleswade, Leighton Buzzard, Toddington, Shefford, Woburn, Potton and Bletchley also attended to provide additional fire fighting, water supply and operational support.
Bedfordians as far away as Kempston, Queen’s Park, Brickhill and Putnoe could see the flames and smoke, posting pictures on social media of the blaze from afar.
Gallery: Images from the scene
Chief Fire Officer (CFO), Paul Fuller CBE, attended to oversee the operation. At the scene, he told Bedford Independent that their priority was to stop the fire spreading to the Health Village Clinic and Archer House.
How the incident unfolded:
- 18:00 – Fire crews called to Bedford’s ‘North Wing’ Health Village after reports of flames and smoke in the derelict Shires House
- 19:00 – Crews from Kempston called to assist
- 19:30 – Incident Command Centre set up
- 19:45 – Aerial platform from Luton arrives and joins Bedford’s aerial platform
- 20:20 – 50 firefighters now on the scene, some enter the building to prevent the fire from spreading
- 20:45 – BFRS confirm no casualties reported
- 21:00 – Kimbolton Road closed to vehicles to allow emergency services clear access
- 21:15 – Rapid Relief Team UK start to provide food and drink to crews. Water pumps plug into water mains on Goldington Road to increase water supply
- 21:45 – BFRS advise local homes and businesses that they may experience a drop in water pressure
- 22:15 – Crews from Bletchley arrive with water carriers to help with water supply. 60 firefighters now on the scene
- 22:30 – BFRS issue warning to local homes to keep windows closed to avoid smoke damage or inhalation
- 22:46 – CFO, Paul Fuller CBE, confirms “fire at the Health Village end is under control” but parts of Shires House have collapsed
- 23:30 – Healthwatch Bedford Borough announce all MSK appointment for 4 January cancelled
- 00:10 – Fire is now well under control and some crews are packing up preparing to leave. BFRS confirm no damage to Archer House or Health Village clinics
- 01:00 – BFRS scaled back the incident to just two appliances, two aerial platforms and two water carriers to dampen down and ensure the building is stable
- 07:30 – Kimbolton Road remains closed
- 08:30 – NHS confirm that Gilbert Hitchcock House is still open for appointments
- 09:00 – Kimbolton Road reopened
The Bedford Independent’s Paul Hutchinson was the only journalist at the scene, providing live updates from the Incident Command Centre. Local residents told him that the Shires Building was known to be used by squatters and “kids were always messing around” in the abandoned building.
There’s no official confirmation as to how the fire started but Bedfordshire Police have issued an appeal for witnesses.
History of Shires House
Shires House was a Grade II listed building and was built in the 1790s from bricks of the old Bedford Castle and was The Bedford House of Industry before becoming Bedford Union Workhouse after the 1834 Poor Law’s Act.
The workhouse closed in 1949 and became Bedford Hospital North Wing under the NHS. The building has been empty and unused for many years and is now owned by NHS Property Services.