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Thick black smoke poured out from asbestos building fire in High Barnet
Emergency services remain at the scene of a large blaze that sent asbestos-filled smoke billowing into the air last night.
A derelict NHS building and an adjacent storage unit in Barnet Road, near to the junction with Elmbank Avenue, High Barnet, went up in flames shortly before 6.30pm.
Police have not ruled out arson as a possible cause.
Norbert Kozak, assistant manager of the The Arkley pub, opposite the scene, called the fire brigade at 6.15pm.
He said: “There must have been some plastic or tyres in there as there was just thick black smoke pouring out over the pub.
“It wasn’t such a big fire but the smoke was huge. A lot of people crowded around to see. The asbestos is definitely a worry – it was really black smoke.”
Police closed off Barnet Road in both directions until 7am this morning, when officers reopened one lane.
The road has since been fully reopened but officers remain guarding the scene while firefighters monitor the smouldering building.
Pub managers shut The Arkley at 9pm after suffering a quiet night of trade due to the closed road. The pub is open as normal today.
Six fire engines and about 30 firefighters from Finchley, Southgate, Barnet, Hendon, and Stanmore tackled the blaze, which was brought under control at 8.30pm.
London Fire Brigade says crews were dealing with an unknown quantity of asbestos in one of the buildings.
One of the 20x10 metre, two storey buildings suffered 15 percent floor damage and 10 and 25 percent damage in the first floor and roof.
A two storey adjacent storage unit, containing the asbestos, suffered 80 percent damage on the ground and first floor.
Mother-of-two Kelly Rosenberg has lived in Barnet Road for two years and says the empty buildings have been set fire to three times in that period.
The 36-year-old said: “It is really frustrating. I don’t know why the NHS keeps them standing – it is a hazard. The fire engines are always here quickly but there is a lot of greenery in there and if that goes up it will be a big problem.
“Last night it made me want to ask them what they’re doing with those buildings. We could hear the fire engines all night and it kept my baby awake.
“Apart from the fact it’s an eye sore, tt is quite worrying because you wonder what sort of people are hanging around setting fire to these buildings – we don’t like it.”