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17 October 2013, 13:13
Kent residents have been warned about the storage of fireworks after two large hauls were found in dangerous circumstances.
Thousands of pounds worth of fireworks, being sold illegally from a self-storage unit, were seized by KCC?s Trading Standards officers in a joint operation with Kent Police.
And in a second unconnected raid, another large haul was found at a private house. In both situations, the fireworks were being sold via Facebook accounts.
Those at the storage facility were found in a confined 20 sq. ft. space and contained a total of 50kg of gunpowder. Trading Standards Manager Mark Rolfe said a single spark could have caused an explosion big enough to destroy the whole depot.
Although the fireworks themselves were authentic, they were being sold before the legal period for sales which runs from 15 October to 11 November.
The 23 boxes retail for between £300 and £500 and, although the owners of the storage unit in Ramsgate were not aware of the precise contents, they had been asked to insure them for £11,000.
Mr Rolfe said: "To picture that amount of explosive, that's two wholesale-size sacks of potatoes of pure gunpowder; which would make a fairly significant explosion.
"The storage conditions were totally unsafe with standard electrical fittings running above the fireworks. The expert advice we have been given is that one spark from a failing fluorescent tube could have destroyed the building."
The raid on the storage depot involved four officers from Trading Standards and four from the Kent Police Rural Partnership Team, who cut the padlock to break into the unit. A 34-year-old man was later questioned and investigations are continuing.
The second raid, at a house in the Millmead area of Margate, uncovered 20kg of fireworks, also being advertised via Facebook. Mr Rolfe said: "This was not as big a haul as the other, but they were still being stored in a dangerous condition and could easily have caused an explosion."
The fireworks have been removed to a safe store under Trading Standards control and enquiries to identify the seller are under way.
Chief Insp Lee Russell, from Kent Police Partnerships and Communities, said: "We are continuing to work with Trading Standards on this issue, which is particularly important at this time of year. This is not just a matter of the damage that such incidents can cause, but the threat to personal safety and possible serious injury."
Mr Rolfe said: "In both cases, these were simply ridiculous conditions for the storage of fireworks.
"We urge anyone who needs to store large quantities of fireworks, or anyone who has concerns about illegal storage in their neighbourhood, to check with us about that the venue is appropriate and safe. If not, there is the chance that someone could die in an explosion."