December 16th, 2005


On Sunday, December 11th an explosion then a several day long fire hit a oil depot near here.

There’s been plenty of news coverage about it, and I’m sure you’ve seen many videos about the direct impacts of the incident. On the day, we decided to take my video camera and have a scout round the area to see what effects the incident had slightly further afield. I’m sure this isn’t as important and shocking as the images of burnt out cars, destroyed buildings and houses with missing roofs you’ll see, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

There are two videos, and both require QuickTime 7. Please right-click the links and download them. They’re a bit bigger than the screenshot above - I had to shrink the player down to fit the picture on this page.

If you don’t know who I am, and don’t want to see clips of me and my friends messing about, download the 5 min 30 sec long video here. (34 Mb).

If you do know who I am, or want to see my and my friends messing around a bit, download the 7 min 40 sec long video here. (43.4 Mb).

Disclaimer: Don't e-mail me telling me that I'm being insensitive by posting us messing around and having fun in the same video that covers stuff about the fire. Nobody died and only two people were seriously hurt, so I don't feel I'm doing anything wrong.

Ok, with that done with… On the video, you’ll see a few amazing things:

Firstly, at 11am people are already panic-buying petrol, causing massive queues all over the place. And this time, it genuinely is panic buying - when it happened during the fuel strikes, it was justified - we were running out of fuel, fast. The depot that went up in flames only accounts for 5% of the UK’s oil supply, and it’s sudden loss isn’t going to cause pumps around the country to dry up.

When we got closer, we got under the smoke coming from the fire. It pretty much blocked out the sun, and it was still frosty about at midday - and still rather dark.

We got as close as we could to the fire, which was about 1/2 a mile away. The police presence was amazing. Around the area, all the bus-stops and lay-bys were coned off (usually with a police car inside) to stop people stopping to look at the smoke. All roads that went anywhere near the depot or the M1 (which was closed) were coned off and shut. You didn’t go a minute without seeing a police car driving around!

On the way back home, we stopped at a field overlooking the nearby town of St. Albans. From there, you can see the huge column of smoke rising from the fire, going overhead and sinking down into the town, covering it in a thick brown smog. A picture is below (click to enlarge), but you really need to see the video for full effect!

Driving around St. Albans, you could smell the oil in the air. It’s caused havok as it settles down to land - everything had a thin film of oil on it - the road, puddles, everything. Even after driving in the smog for 30 minutes, my car was covered in a black coating of it.