PEOPLE in the area of yesterday's fire in Witney may be at risk of inhaling asbestos fibres, according to a local council.

But the owner of T & B Motors in West End has said that experts have given the all clear at the site itself, following air testing today. 

Andy Godfrey, who runs the business with his mother and son, praised the fire service for their response to the blaze and apologised for any inconvience caused to locals. 

The 54-year-old said: "From all of us here I cannot praise the fire service enough. Absolutely out of this world. They were just brilliant."

Mr Godfrey, whose family have run the business - called T & B since 1972 - for 60 years, did not say what caused the fire, but continued: "It's nothing like back to normal. We won't be taking any orders for the foreseeable future. 

"Its going to be tough, but we are looking forward."

Earlier today, West Oxfordshire District Council revealed that the building may have contained some asbestos cement roof tiles. 

The council has provided some advice to nearby residents - but noted there is no significant risk to health so long as appropriate clean up procedures are followed. 

Investigations are ongoing into what caused the fire. 

While the presence of asbestos in ash and rubble does not pose a health risk itself, and asbestos is not toxic if eaten or touched, asbestos fibres may pose a risk if inhaled.

The use of water or foam in controlling the fire will have helped to prevent these fibres from becoming airborne.

Asbestos fibres in the roof cement material are tightly bound and will not be airborne, hence the low risk.

The council has provided the following precautionary advice to residents: 

  • Close all external doors and windows while smoke/dust is still visible and during the clean-up of the site
  • Avoid unnecessary outdoor activity during the clean-up and do not put washing out on clothes lines
  • Do not let children play outside during the clean-up, or in any area affected by dust and debris from the fire
  • Do not enter the site of the fire
  • Do not touch any of the debris from the fire or use a domestic vacuum cleaner to clear debris from the fire because this will spread any asbestos fibres into the air.
  • If you need to remove roof tile debris temporarily, dampen it down first, wearing gloves place it in a bin bag and place that in another bin bag, store in a secure place and contact the Council to arrange removal.
  • Contact the Council on 01993 861000 to arrange clearance

Asbestos is present in countless buildings around the country and harmless if left undisturbed. 

60 firefighters battled what eyewitnesses described as '50 foot' flames with 'multiple water jets' are first being called just after 10am yesterday.

Plumes of smoke were seen billowing from the Witney site from miles around.

No one is believed to have been hurt in the fire. 

Yesterday police evacuated Farmers Close and said 'several vehicles' had been on fire.

At least one resident was having emergency accommodation organised last night, a council official said.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said the fire was "under control at 2.30pm, when the number of appliances was reduced."

Firefighters were still at the scene earlier today, damping down and continuing their investigation into the cause of the fire.