Major fire breaks out at Ocado warehouse after three robots collide

Delivery firm apologises to customers for cancelled orders

Peter Stubley
Saturday 17 July 2021 20:04 BST
<p>Firefighters tackle a ‘very deep-seated’ blaze at the depot in Erith, south London</p>

Firefighters tackle a ‘very deep-seated’ blaze at the depot in Erith, south London

Ocado has apologised to customers for cancelling their orders after a major warehouse fire broke out when three robots collided.

Around 100 firefighters and 15 fire engines tackled the blaze at the three-storey depot in Erith, south London, on Friday afternoon.

Hundreds of staff were evacuated but there were no reports of injuries.

The London Fire Brigade said the blaze was “very deep-seated” but that it was under control by 2.17am on Saturday.

Station Commander Steve Vydelingum said that “Firefighters worked hard in hot and arduous conditions inside the warehouse” and that they would “continue to be at the scene into Saturday damping down hot spots”.

Ocado told The Independent that only a small section of the warehouse robot grid had been damaged, and that the facility would return to normal “within the coming week”.

“The incident appears to have been caused by the collision of three bots on the grid resulting in a fire,” the company said in a statement.

“The correct protocols were successfully implemented including the evacuation of the building, the activation of the sprinkler system and the presence of the London Fire Brigade. No one has been injured and all colleagues on site are safe. The damage is limited to a small section of less than 1 per cent of the grid, having been contained by planned fire-attenuation measures.

“Aside from some residual smoke smell, the vast majority of the CFC [customer fulfilment centre] is in good condition. While we expect some disruption to operations, we are working to restore normal service as soon as possible.

“We would like to thank the London Fire Brigade and all the other emergency services for their hard work and professionalism in dealing with this incident.”

Ocado also apologised to customers after it was forced to cancel some deliveries and temporarily block new orders.

Several people complained on Twitter that their orders had been cancelled despite their living as far away as Winchester and East Berkshire. Others said they were relying on deliveries because they were self-isolating with Covid.

“We’re really sorry,” Ocado tweeted. “Due to a major incident at our Erith warehouse, some of our orders have been cancelled. Please be patient with us while we manage this. If this impacts your order, we will be in touch. Thank you.”

Two years ago Ocado lost an estimated £110m when a fire destroyed its warehouse in Andover, Hampshire. A small fire also broke out in a skip at the Erith depot a few months later in August 2019.

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