Cremations put on hold following fire

Fire crews attend a fire at Cowpen Crematorium in Blyth.
Fire crews attend a fire at Cowpen Crematorium in Blyth.

Northumberland’s only crematorium will be closed for several months after a fire in the early hours of last Thursday morning.

The county council has said cremations at Cowpen Cemetery in Blyth will not be provided for some time due to safety reasons.

we will be making it our number one priority to get this facility up and running again as quickly as possible

Coun Ian Swithenbank

Families and their funeral directors who had services planned have had to make alternative arrangements.

The historic chapels at the site have not been directly affected, but they will be closed until a structural assessment of the rear of the building is completed.

The blaze was discovered at 5.20am on Thursday, March 12, by Scott Regan and Keith Tenaluna, and the cause is still not known.

Northumberland County Council said it is assessing the damage and working on an action plan to secure its re-opening as quickly as possible.

A spokesman said: “It is clear that the severity of the fire is such that it has caused significant structural damage to the rear of the building that houses the cremation equipment and the actual cremation equipment itself has also been badly damaged.

“It is likely that the facility will therefore be closed for several months.

“We will issue details of our recovery plan and timeframe once we have a clear understanding of the full extent of the damage.”

Burials are still taking place, however services are either being performed at nearby alternative chapels or churches or at the graveside.

A total of 78 cremations were booked in over the next month and have had to be rearranged elsewhere.

Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment said: “We appreciate the significant distress and inconvenience this will cause to families.

“We will be contacting the affected families directly to refund their fees and also to offer them financial support of £650 to help them make alternative arrangements.

“It is a vital service for our community and we will be making it our number one priority to get this up and running again as quickly as possible.”

Coun Grant Davey, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “We are working with neighbouring local authorities to increase the number of services that they are able to undertake, in order to  reduce the distress to affected families.”

“I’d like to personally thank them for all their tremendous help and support.

“This is one of the benefits of having good working relationships  with our neighbours.”

An assessment of the full damage is being made, although significant damage has been caused to the electrics, structural damage to the steel work and to the roof.