The fire broke out in a storage yard on the base at 1800hrs local time on Sunday 16 May 2010. Within half-an-hour the flames were visible from over a mile away at neighbouring Camp Bastion.
Camp Leatherneck is the American base near the UK’s main base in Helmand, Camp Bastion. See Related News to read more about Camp Bastion.
RAF fire crews were called in by their American colleagues to help tackle the huge blaze on Sunday but the weather fought against them, with a severe dust storm ripping into the camp and fanning the flames. It spread the fire across the whole of the storage yard.
The fire’s progress was so fast that an American fire engine, unable to vacate its path, was consumed by the flames.
After hours spent struggling against the blaze, the firefighters were forced to stand down for their own safety.
Corporal Jim McInally of the RAF Fire Service was part of the team who responded to the Americans’ call for assistance:
There was absolutely nothing we could do. We had to evacuate,” he said. “There was so much heavy machinery around, we didn’t know where the flames were coming from or where it was spreading to. The Force Fire Officer just wanted everybody to the side, [told them to] get out; safety was paramount.
It took nearly five hours before the fire was officially declared contained.
By morning the flames had considerably subsided, but small pockets of fire were still burning. Camp Leatherneck’s storage yard, the size of two football pitches, had been completely consumed.
In spite of the damage, no-one was injured in the fire, although one firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation and the Americans said operations were unaffected.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
This report by British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) Camp Bastion-based reporter James Hirst was aired on the BFBS British Forces News channel on Monday 17 May 2010. See Related links to watch the full report online.