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16:30 - 16 March 2002

The Triumph motorbike works has been virtually wrecked by a multi-million pound blaze.

More than 100 firefighters tackled the huge fire which at its height last night could be seen for miles around the Hinckley site.

Flames leapt more than 20 metres into the night sky and a huge pall of smoke hung over the scene.

There were no reports of anyone being injured.

Crowds of night workers from other firms on the industrial estate were held back by police as explosions rocked the plant in Jacknell Road on the Dodwells Bridge industrial estate.

Triumph employ around 650 people and is the only British bike firm still in production.

Fire appliances were called from all over Leicestershire and from neighbouring counties.

Firefighters used two hydraulic platforms to pour water onto the flames, pumping water from a nearby canal.

The blaze started around 8.40pm and was under control around 11pm.

Three of the six sheds at the highly successful manufacturing plant were left gutted by the blaze.

Stunned staff said they believed the fire started in an engine assembly workshop.

One worker said: ''This is unbelievable. I am stunned at what I am seeing.

''There may have been a small number of staff working, but they would have been evacuated.''

Tesco worker John Thornley said: ''It's an unreal sight. We all heard the sirens at about 8.40 this evening and looked outside to see giant plumes of smoke coming from Triumph just round the corner.''

It was only on Tuesday this week that the Mercury's Business News supplement reported how the company was creating more jobs as production boomed.

The firm was producing around 750 motorcycles a week - well above last year's figures. Over the past four months, Triumph has created four new ranges of motorcycles.

Last year the firm relaunched the famous Bonneville model which was a hit with bikers for about 30 years from the 1950s.

Millionaire housebuilder Mr John Bloor, a plasterer's son from Measham, acquired the Triumph name from the receivers in 1984. He invested millions in transforming the company. Since then it has been a proud symbol of British manufacturing and exporting achievement.
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