At 3:10AM on Thursday 15th January 2015 an arsonist created the largest incident that the Oxfordshire fire crews had seen for many years.

Revenging a decade long planning battle with the local council, the arsonist torched his house, set fire to a neighbouring thatched cottage (whose occupant had complained about the planning application) and then drove his car, loaded with gas bottles, through glass doors into the reception of the South Oxfordshire District Council offices. The car was set alight and the arsonist left the scene.

The large SODC building was purpose built, accommodating more than 400 staff. The strong winds quickly spread the fire through the North half of the building on both floors and within minutes was a roaring inferno. Mercifully, the fire in the thatched cottage spread slower, and the occupant, an aged lady, escaped unharmed.

The RRT were first alerted when a member drove past the SODC offices at 6:20AM and reported that a huge fire incident had occurred. The request came back quickly for RRT to attend not just the SODC office site, but also the thatched cottage as well – this was going to be a challenge! At this time there were approx 50 fire fighters and 20 police at the SODC offices, and 20 fire fighters and 10 police at the thatched cottage site, as well as a bomb disposal team, as gas canisters had been discovered in the arsonist’s house.

The scene that met RRT was devastating and they set to work immediately setting out the tables so that the hungry, tired and hot fire fighters and other emergency crews started helping themselves to the refreshments. Their appreciation was overwhelming.

Another RRT team was sent to the thatched cottage to provide hot drinks and snacks to the emergency crews there.

RRT  served the emergency crews throughout the afternoon, keeping in constant contact with the commanders. They started stepping down at around 4:00pm and finally left both sites at 5:30pm. As the team members were retiring for the night, news came through that the fire at the SODC offices had reignited, and that 60 fire fighters were back on site. So the team scrambled back into action!!

RRT arrived back on site at 10:30, and the emergency crews were beyond grateful. They could hardly believe that the team had come back, and this time they were served hot drinks and fresh doughnuts!

Several more senior fire officers attended during this second shift, and expressed their gratitude for what the RRT had provided. For interest – The SODC offices are reported as being considered a rebuild, as the structural damage is so widespread. Approx £5million damage was caused.

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