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GFRS assesses 'offensive possibilities' after tunnel fire burns overnight

The road between Europa Ppoint and Sandy Bay remains sealed on Wednesday morning as firefighters assess options to tackle the tunnel fire. Photo by Johnny Bugeja

The Gibraltar Fire and Rescue Service is assessing “offensive possibilities” to tackle a fire that broke out on Tuesday in a tunnel on the east side and continues to burn.

Early Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Gibraltar Government said the situation remained “unchanged” and the area was sealed off to traffic from Sandy Bay to the mosque in Europa Point.

People are being asked to avoid the area amid concerns about smoke and the danger of rockfalls.

A key priority for firefighters is to take whatever steps possible to mitigate any risk to critical infrastructure relating to water and electricity supply, as well as phones and internet services, that run through some of the tunnels in that area.

“As things stand, [there has been] no major impact on infrastructure and part of our action plan moving forward is to prioritise protecting that infrastructure whilst cautiously moving in towards the affected vaults,” the government spokesperson told the Chronicle.

“It is however hard to gauge how effective this will be until we have eyes inside.”

Part of the challenge facing firefighters is that the tunnels have been used to store numerous items and it is unclear as yet what is actually alight inside.

Yesterday, as a thick plume of smoke billowed from a ventilation shaft on the cliff face, firefighters were forced to retreat due the dangerous conditions inside.

“After several attempts to gain access to the affected areas within the tunnel, crews have had to retreat due to the intense heat and instability of internal tunnel structures,” the GFRS said in a statement issued at 7.30pm on Tuesday.

“Firefighters continue to deal with the incident whilst working in zero visibility and extremely challenging conditions, with a few near misses in the process whereby rocks have dropped around officers.”

“The cause of the fire remains unclear, but the emanating smoke plume indicates high toxicity, which is hampering
operations due to its density.”

Although no chances are being taken for safety reasons, firefighters and those involved in the response are not concerned at present about any major impact on the integrity of the cliff face or structures above.

“Whilst [there is] no immediate concern in this respect, we are working closely with all stakeholders, including the Technical Services Department, the Department of the Environment and others, to keep a close eye on all possibilities,” the government spokesperson added.

More updates as we have them.

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