The fire has caused substantial damage of the building and contents © Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service
The fire has caused substantial damage of the building and contents © Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service

Probe launched into blaze at Ocado robot warehouse

8 February 2019

An investigation has been launched into the cause of a blaze at Ocado’s robot-powered warehouse in Hampshire.

Firefighters declared the fire at the Andover warehouse a major incident with more than 200 firefighters and 20 fire engines called in to tackle the blaze, which broke out at 2.44am on 5 February. It was said to be under control on Friday but firefighters were expected to be remain on site for several days.

Ocado said the fire started in a section of the ambient grid, where goods are stored at ambient temperature, and it has caused “substantial damage” to the building and its contents.

It has been reported that the blaze involved automated packaging machinery, but Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) and Ocado declined to confirm this, saying the investigation is ongoing.

The Andover site, which opened in December 2016, was known for its workforce of hundreds of battery-powered robots which are capable of shifting and moving boxes of groceries around on a grid.

Neil Odin, the chief fire officer of HFRS, told the BBC: “This building is not meant for humans to be interacting with the racking and the storage – it has robots moving racking onto loading bays, so for firefighters trying to get in that high and to make an effective fire-fighting strategy, it has been very difficult.”

Properties within 500m of the warehouse were initially evacuated, due to concerns over the presence of pressurised refrigerants on site, but HFRS has confirmed the toxic chemicals have now been successfully removed. Residents have been allowed to return home.

The warehouse processes 30,000 orders each week, representing 10% of Ocado's capacity, and the company said it is working to minimise disruption for customers by increasing capacity at its other facilities.

Operations will continue at its facilities in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, Dordon in Warwickshire and Erith in southeast London.

Last year, Ocado Engineering announced it had been awarded an FM Global Highly Protected Risk award for its sprinkler system at the Andover customer fulfilment centre, with the facility meeting the highest standard of property protection against fire.

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