'Loud explosion' heard at RAF Wethersfield - base used to house migrants

An image of firefighters at RAF Wethersfield

An image of firefighters at RAF Wethersfield

Wethersfield Action Group
Jack Walters

By Jack Walters

Published: 31/08/2023

- 15:14

Updated: 31/08/2023

- 20:53

RAF Wethersfield is expected to house around 1,700 asylum seekers later this year

Emergency services have been seen rushing to RAF Wethersfield this afternoon.

Essex Police, Essex County Fire & Rescue and East of England Ambulance Service attended the scene near the town of Braintree.

Footage from the scene showed emergency service vehicles driving at speed towards the facility used by the Ministry of Defence Police.

A police cordon is in place on the edge of the former RAF base.

RAF Wethersfield in EssexRAF Wethersfield in EssexPA

Local resident Nicola Brand suggested an explosion had taken place.

She told Essex Live: "When we first got here there was two fire trucks, about four police officers that were in unmarked vehicles and numerous ambulances.

"Then a helicopter was overhead. They went up to the gates, they have taped it all off inside.

"A gatesman said it was quite a loud explosion."

Sources have confirmed an explosion occurred at a disused building used by Ministry of Defence Police as an evidence store around 300 metres from the accommodation centre.

The building has a gas fire suppression system and it is believed the device malfunctioned causing a release of gas resulting in an explosion.

An image taken from RAF Wethersfield

An image taken from RAF Wethersfield

Wethersfield Action Group

GB News understands the explosion occurred in an unused building at the site.

It has been suggested the damage was not major, with no injuries reported at the moment.

The cause of the explosion is not believed to be malicious and personnel from the emergency services are now leaving the scene.

GB News' Mark White said: “There’s no doubt that this is another embarrassing setback for the Home Office because clearly given this is in parts a disused site there are buildings that are not up to standard, that are potentially hazardous.

“That’ll be used by those who say no asylum seeker should be housed anywhere near the buildings that are potentially unsafe and we know of course that just in recent weeks there were health concerns surrounding the base, an outbreak of scabies and even tuberculosis, which have since we are told been dealt with satisfactorily.”

A sign near RAF Wethersfield in EssexA sign near RAF Wethersfield in EssexPA

He added: “At the moment, we don’t believe there are much more than a hundred or so asylum seekers on site because of all the problems we have spoken about.

"It seems that the pace of moving asylum seekers onto the site has been much slower than first envisaged.”

An Essex County Fire & Rescue Service spokesperson also said: "Firefighters were called to the Wethersfield base, Finchingfield at 1.18pm.

"On arrival crews found that the pressure in a fire suppression system had built up and created a small hole in the roof of a disused building on the edge of the site.

"Crews worked with the site to make the scene safe. No one was injured or had to be evacuated."

An image of workers at RAF Wethersfield in EssexAn image of workers at RAF Wethersfield in EssexPA

A Home Office spokesperson said:“Fire and police services attended Wethersfield on the afternoon of Thursday, August 31, after Pressure in a fire suppression system created a small hole in the roof of a disused building on the edge of the site.

“No one was injured and we are now assessing the damage to the roof.”

RAF Wethersfield will house up to 1,700 asylum seekers by the end of the year.

However, the Government faced several legal challenges over using the Essex airbase.

Only 46 Channel migrants were initially moved to RAF Wethersfield, with 16 leaving last month.

The total number housed at the base stood at just 80 around six weeks after the first group of asylum seekers moved in, GB News revealed earlier this month.

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