Asbestos fear as suspected arson leads to Derwent fire

Students have been evacuated from D Block in Derwent after an explosion in the adjacent bike sheds

fire in Derwent
Photo exclusive: George Lowther

An alleged arson attack on an asbestos-insulated building has led to an evacuation of Derwent D-block.

Students were ordered from the building after a suspected arson attack caused an explosion and subsequent fire in the adjacent storage buildings.

The smoke from the building, which is insulated by asbestos, is potentially harmful to any who ingests it. Students have been advised to close their doors and windows in order to keep the fumes out.

Suspected particle tests for asbestos are currently being carried out in the block, while residents have been unable to return to their rooms.

Derwent porters have confirmed that arson is suspected, and that a number of youths seen riding away on bikes on the CCTV cameras were thought to be responsible for the fire. CCTV footage of both Derwent and Langwith is being examined by campus security.

A member of security staff was heard to say: “If you look [at the CCTV recording], you will see our little friends running away. It started with a bang, so they must have had something to chuck.”

A member of the security services posted outside the remnants of the building said: “The building has been checked, the gas is safe, the buliding is as good as it’s going to get till the morning. We will stay here all night to make sure it doesnt go up again. You know what hot spots are like”

fire in Derwent
Photo exclusive: George Lowther

Firemen have entered the building to assess the damage.

Sue Johnston, Head of Campus Services, who had earlier reported the danger of gas canisters being damaged in the fire, told residents: “We’re really sorry what’s happened. Go back to your rooms in 20 minutes, the fire brigade will come back in morning.” She also reminded residents to keep their windows closed due to the smoke.

Derwent Provost Ron Weir has addressed D-Block residents, and has reportedly offered to buy them all a drink.

The fire was discovered at approximately 9pm by Jenny Herdmen, a former student porter, in a building used to house refuse bins and recyclable materials next to Derwent D block. Residents reported a a loud explosion and ran outside to see the shed aflame.

A second larger explosion rang out at 9.07, and the flames grew quickly to a height twice that of the building. Derwent D block was evacuated immediately and the fire brigade were called. Around 65 students are resident of the block.

Charlotte Ward-Caddle, a first year Derwent C Block resident stated: “As my friend called the emergency services, we ran downstairs. Within seconds, the flames were as big as D Block.”

As the fire grew, increasingly larger numbers gathered round, as word spread through Derwent bar, which was busier than normal due to the European Champions League Final. Within moments at least half a dozen porters appeared on the scene, along with Weir. Weir said: “We don’t know what happened at the moment.” Cars that were parked next to the building were quickly removed.

Lauren Watters, first year Derwent D block resident, said “We were all sitting in the kitchen, we heard a bang. When we looked out of the window, the bins and bike shed were completely set alight.”

No Derwent students are thought to have been hurt in the fire.

More to follow…


  1. The article doesn’t seem to mention it, but I hope none of the Derwentians living on campus were hurt and that their rooms withstood the damage.


  2. Alleged arson? Alleged by whom? My wild rumour sense is tingling…

    (Other campus news outlets are available ;))


  3. Laura as far as I’m aware (I’m living in Derwent B block) nobody has been hurt and the actual college wasn’t significantly damaged. This is just from a peek and what I’ve heard though. I think there is some concern because the shed that caught fire was made from asbestos and obviously inhaling asbestos fumes / smoke is not good for anyone’s health, one of the porters was seen opening some of the windows in the block to try to clear some of the smoke out.

    I don’t really know anymore though.


  4. 21 May ’08 at 10:14 pm

    Peter Campbell


    no students were hurt in the fire, as D block was evacuated almost straight away. As for the buildings, as far as we are aware, no residential rooms were damaged.

    Keep logged on for updates.



  5. Good report, we were aware inside but the Champions League was just more important!

    But on a serious note, chavs should be shot… and if it wasn’t an accident then I hope the individuals will be prosecuted quickly.


  6. 21 May ’08 at 10:44 pm

    Derwent C block

    Keith the porter was a legend! He ran round and saved the day. The Derwent hero :-).


  7. Just wanted to add I don’t know for certain it’s asbestos, just some of the banter I overheard (as both theyorker and nouse are now reporting there’s asbestos from what I can see on nothing more than my comment..)

    Obviously smoke from a fire is hazardous in any circumstances.


  8. Richard,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I would like to assure you that our asbestos reports came from a Derwent porter, not from your previous comment.

    Thanks again,

    Henry James Foy
    News Editor


  9. Thanks Henry I just wouldn’t want to be spreading any panic by my comment.


  10. Hi guys I’m a D block resident and we’re being allowed back in now. The block itself doesn’t appear to be damaged apart from a little whiff of burning :) I’ve not heard of any injuries, i think everyone is safe.



  11. 21 May ’08 at 11:35 pm

    Josephine Frater

    This is insane…I went on Facebook and Raf’s status came up on my news feed…massively shocked but glad no one was hurt. Well done to the Porters and how canny is Ron Wier offering to buy people drinks.


  12. Ron Weir, What a Star!

    I’m so glad no-one was hurt, and I hope that if it was Arson those people are arrested and locked up for a long, long time. What an utterly idiotic thing to do.


  13. Glad no-one is hurt or adversely affected in any way.
    If they find out who did it, I hope they release names and addresses, and as soon as there is chance Derwent D-Blockers (past and present) can find the little s**** and bodge tape them down over an ants nest.


  14. Tar and feather them. I’m hearing they were from Langwith…


  15. Kieth was our hero! We all owe him a big giant hug”


  16. Yorker coverage is marginally better


  17. I’m sorry, Yorker coverage is marginaly better? In which particular way?

    You mean the fact that they didn’t know anything about the Arson or the Asbestos, and then put a small para at the end Arson and Asbestos may be involved, then Dom Freeston had the nerve to comment saying “all the info in this article was obtained by the yorker reporters. Credit to Nouse if they published the same details earlier.”

    Are you sure you’re not Dom himself, anon?


  18. Yeah yeah, theyorker reported this days ago, you guys are like, so behind.
    And it was better.
    I heard you stole this article from them.
    And made stuff up, just for fun.


  19. “It is probably those little gits from Tang Hall”

    I love the Derwent porters, no messing around or mincing words.

    From the sounds of it Keith was amazing and has cemented his legend status for Derwent. I’m a former Derwent D-block resident myself and I hope all the new residents are ok, it’s so fortunate that nobody was hurt.


  20. People, people can we stop the Nouse/Yorker rivalry/bashing for just one second?!

    Perhaps Nouse was there first and photos first and gathered more info first. in that case, well done Nouse! The only thing it shows is that Nouse are now forced to report live and update their site more often IN ORDER to compete with The Yorker’s desire to provide info 24/7.

    Different medfia outlets cater for different needs, and I am sick and tired of this needless perpetual bashing!


  21. 22 May ’08 at 11:44 pm

    Derwent Porter

    I don’t know were you get your info from, but I never said anything what you printed.


  22. 23 May ’08 at 1:05 am

    I'm not supporting the Yorker here but...

    This isn’t a comment about the Yorker being better or anything…but they have got up to date information that suggests there is no evidence of arson or asbestos fears. Perhaps Nouse should keep a little bit more on the ball?


  23. Dear Derwent Porter,

    Thanks for your comment. The quote was misattributed and has now been corrected.

    All the best,

    Raf Sanchez


  24. 24 May ’08 at 5:55 pm

    I'm not supporting Nouse here but...

    …There are big signs up at the site of the fire saying “Danger: Asbestos”. So, um, if the yorker hasn’t reported on it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Evidently.


  25. Quoting someone that out of context is absolutely ludicrous. I accept that I may frequently criticise Nouse for its politically motivated articles- that is an entirely subjective criticism. On the other hand, lying about what porters said combined with sensationalist stories such as the headline on the last edition just add up to very, very poor and unprofessional journalism.

    Dan Taylor


  26. 25 May ’08 at 5:32 pm

    Chill out Taylor

    Just because Nouse don’t line up with you politically (who does?) Dan, that’s no reason to mouth off at them, taking two incidents totaly out of context.

    Chill out.

    Poor and unprofessional journalism? I’d like to see you do any better.


  27. That’s one of the most ridiculous points I’ve ever heard. My point was that regarding this article, people are criticising the basics of journalism, not any political implications of an article etc. In other words, it’s not the usuall criticism levelled at Nouse, which usually centres round political bias and similar story-lines etc.

    As for your point “you try and do better”, well that’s the point exactly. I don’t claim to be a journalist or try to write articles for Nouse. It’s an entirely ridiculous and playgroundish comment.