Inside charred remains of Luton Airport car park: Drone footage reveals scale of the blaze which damaged 1500 cars

24 October 2023, 16:14 | Updated: 24 October 2023, 16:29

The drone footage gives a bird's-eye view of the wreckage at the car park
The drone footage gives a bird's-eye view of the wreckage at the car park. Picture: London Luton Aiport

By Ana Truesdale

Drone footage has revealed the wreckage of the Luton Airport car park after a blazing inferno ripped through it two weeks ago.

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Drone footage shows devastation of Luton Airport car park

Aerial video shows how burnt out cars with melted frames, charred roofs and missing windows are littered around the shell of the Terminal 2 Car Park that saw 1,400 vehicles go up in flames on October 10.

Parts of the car park have collapsed because of the blaze. The heat warped concrete and steel, and the new footage shows that cars have fallen multiple stories through the floor.

Firefighters battled the blaze on October 10, and some 235 flights were cancelled, affecting around 40,000 passengers.

Yesterday, the operation to remove the cars by using large cranes began. It is estimated that 105 cars on the top floor of the car park.

With each car taking 30-40 minutes to remove with a crane, it would take over 50 hours to remove just the cars on the top floor.

Heat, fire and smoke damage mean that there is a high likelihood that all of the cars being removed are unsalvageable.

Around 1500 cars were destroyed in the blaze
As many as 1500 cars could have been destroyed in the blaze. Picture: Alamy

Oliver Jaycock, director of corporate affairs at the airport, said: "We’ve been working with the structural engineers this past week to work out how we can improve the stabilisation of the car park.

"The fourth floor, which is the floor beneath [the top], is the most fragile. So this is about removing the weight and that reduces the chances of that being any localised collapsing inside the car park.

He added: "It’s impossible to tell the state of the vehicles from the eye. They might look fine, but of course they could have been subject to some very high heat.

"Once they’re on the ground, they can be inspected thoroughly and we can then work out the next steps."

London Luton Airport has not yet confirmed how it plans to deal with the destroyed car park structure once the cars have been removed.

In a statement, they said: "Having worked with our engineers, experts and insurers, we are getting closer every day to making a final decision on what is going to happen to the car park and the vehicles contained within it."

A man was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage in relation to the fire. He has since been bailed.

A spokesman for Bedfordshire police said: "Police last week arrested a man in his 30s on suspicion of criminal damage in connection to their investigation into a significant fire in a car park at London Luton Airport on Tuesday (October 10).

"We are carrying out a thorough and diligent investigation into all potential lines of enquiry, as should be expected after such a major event.

"The man has been released on bail while our enquiries continue."

Fire investigators believe the fire started with a diesel car, possibly a Range Rover, and quickly spread.

The fire predominantly affected the top floors of the car park in Luton airport
The fire predominantly affected the top floors of the car park in Luton airport. Picture: Getty

Read More: Grandmother whose car was destroyed in Luton Airport fire says insurance company told her it was her fault

Read More: Dramatic footage shows the moment car bursts into flames inside Luton Airport car park, damaging 1,200 cars

The Business Sprinkler Alliance, which is backed by the National Fire Chiefs Council, said it was "unsurprised" by the severity of the Luton Airport car park fire because sprinklers were not fitted in the structure.

Tom Roache told LBC: "Current regulatory guidance doesn't call for sprinklers in these buildings. It's based on thoughts and thinking from the 1980's and early 90's where cars were built very differently than they are today.

"More plastics in cars today means the propagation, the spreading of fire is more likely, which will lead to these larger configurations if there are no sprinklers."

He said if sprinklers had been fitted "we would have seen none of the disruption we're talking about, with all of those passengers, and to that local area and local community."

Mr Roache also warned of the dangers of a similar event happening in another multi-storey car park, saying: "What if that car park fire was in a building which was residential, with premises above where people are living and sleeping? We have car parks with shopping complexes and office complexes above - what does it mean for those?"

He called for the government to "think carefully" about protecting them, and urged ministers to order the installation of sprinklers in the structures.

Social media users captured images as the car park blazed on October 10
Social media users captured images as the car park blazed on October 10. Picture: Social media

Luton Airport said it was "too early to tell" whether a sprinkler system would have prevented any of the damage, as executives admitted it's highly unlikely any of the cars within the multi-storey will be recovered.

The government launched a major review of the fire safety guidance to building regulations, known as Approved Document B, following the Grenfell tower fire. It's being overseen by the Building Safety Regulator in the HSE and involves research into the structural fire resistance of car parks.

It's currently for building designers, managers, and owners to determine whether particular circumstances of their building should go beyond the regulations.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: "Public safety is our absolute priority - which is why we’re undertaking a major review of the fire safety guidance to the building regulations, including research on the fire resistance of car parks."

It's understood ministers intend to take the "necessary time to properly consider the research" before committing to changes.

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