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Man escapes from crane as smoke billows above building site in King’s Cross

Fire takes hold at Institute of Physics in Caledonian Road

25 May, 2017 — By William McLennan

Firefighters tried to break their way into the site with a battering ram

DOZENS of people were evacuated from homes and offices in King’s Cross this afternoon (Thursday) as a fire broke out on a building site.

Flames took hold of plastic sheeting at the site of the new Institute of Physics building at the junction of Caledonian Road and Balfe Road shortly after midday.

Aqib Aslam, who works a few doors down from the blaze at Wiseman Estates, said that the crane operator was stuck in his cab as thick dark smoke billowed into the sky. The column of smoke could be seen from Camden Town.

He said: “There was a guy stuck on the crane. He was still on the crane well the smoke was going up, he must have been breathing it all in, but he’s down safely. He was covered in smoke and I felt sorry for him. He was just suck in his little box in the crane.”

Mr Aslam said: “I came out of the office and saw tonnes of smoke. I actually manage the building next door so if there was tenants inside I wanted to notify them, but everyone was out at work. It was pretty scary at that time. It’s all under control now, but it was very bad before.”

The Institute of Physics was given permission to building their new offices at the site in 2015 in the face of objections from neighbours and conservation experts. They have been forced to retain the facade of the original building on Balfe Street.

Mr Aslam said: “They have been digging down, around 18 meteres down, from what I know, because it’s a new development there, so they might have hit something with gas, I’m not sure. They’ve been digging for quite sometime.”

He praised the speed of the emergency services, who he said were on the scene, in “less than five minutes”.

A London Fire Brigade spokesman: “Six fire engines and 35 firefighters and officers were called to a fire at a building site in Balfe Street in Islington.

“Part of a south facing wall at the building site was damaged by fire. One person self evacuated from the cab of a 30 metre crane. The Brigade was called at 1206 and the fire was under control at 1252. Fire crews from Islington, Kentish Town, Holloway, Paddington and Lambeth fire stations attended the scene.”

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