One person is unaccounted for after a large blaze broke out at a fireworks factory, police said tonight.
Two people were taken to hospital after emergency services were called to “an explosion” and fire at SP Fireworks in Tilcon Avenue, Stafford.
Worried local residents heard “a loud bang” and saw smoke coming from the factory at 5.15pm.
Superintendent Jane Hewett, of Staffordshire Police, said: “At this stage police and fire are working to establish the cause of the explosion. Sadly, we currently believe one person remains unaccounted for and police are working to support their family.
“We are currently arranging for a search of the scene tomorrow morning once the fire has been extinguished and the scene made safe.
“The cause of the explosion remains unclear at this point. Police are working to locate everyone who had been in the premises this afternoon and urge anyone with any information about those visiting SP Fireworks today to call Staffordshire Police on 101.”
West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) spokesman Steve Wheaton described the casualties to Sky News: “One was a male in his late 60s who has been taken to hospital with back injuries and smoke inhalation. We also took a 40-year-old male to the same hospital with serious burns.”
The men were taken to University Hospital of North Staffordshire.
Two women in their 40s and 50s who were suffering “mild smoke inhalation and other walking wounded-type injuries” were later allowed to leave.
Mr Wheaton said: “This is a fireworks factory and there are chemicals and things so we are not entirely sure yet what we are dealing with.”
Thick plumes of smoke and dramatic bursts of fireworks could be seen above the premises on a large trading estate, which had closed for the day by the time the fire broke out.
People in the Baswich area were warned to stay indoors and keep their windows closed.
A safety cordon was thrown up around the scene, which Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service had earlier described as “escalating”.
Onlooker Mike Hillman said he was watching from Tixall Road, adding ``massive fire, loads of smoke this way, hope everyone is OK''.
He tweeted: “Hoping everyone is OK over there, looks like it has spread down the whole row of units on that side of the estate.”
Onlooker Christina Harrison told BBC News: “My friend said ’Oh, something has fallen on my head’. It turned out to be ash falling on us.
“As we got closer the smoke got worse and worse. You could just hear explosions and fireworks going off.”
WMAS sent four ambulances, the Hazardous Area Response Team, four emergency doctors, five paramedic officers and two rapid response vehicles.
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service rushed fire engines with specialist equipment and at least 25 firefighters to the scene along with specialist equipment when the alarm was raised.
A spokesman said eight appliances had been helping to tackle the blaze and that trains were “running under caution” nearby.
By 8pm the scene had become “much calmer”, Mr Wheaton said, although firefighters were still busy.
Resident Brian Little said the blaze had died down quite considerably.
He told Sky News: “It was horrendous. You would not be surprised if there was one or two injuries. The flames were sky-high.
“It does seem to be under control now but for 45 minutes to an hour it was horrendous and you could not help but watch it.”
Another onlooker, Sam Smewing, tweeted: “Smoke was so thick, you could see and smell it on the Technology Park on Beaconside this evening.”