Film ID: NEFA 21646 FIRE AT CLARENCE WORKS BRITISH STEEL CHEMICALS AUGUST 23RD 1976 1976 Visitor TabsDescription An amateur film produced by Betty Cook and Peter Whitaker of the Cleveland Cine Club recording events taking place during and after a major fire at the Clarence Works of British Steel Chemicals at Port Clarence on August 23rd 1976. Title: Fire at Clarence Works British Steel Chemicals August 23rd 1976 The film opens with a general view outside the works and of men attaching hoses to the water mains in the road. A man holding a hose sprays down a small smouldering fire. A fire engine comes along the road cutting to a firefighter holding a hose dampening down the fire seen previously. General views show other workers on the site using hoses to fight the fire at other locations. From a distance thick smoke travels across the skyline from a large fire at the Clarence Works. Fire engines and firefighters on site work to tackle the blaze along with men from the Clarence Works. Flames occasional leap from the thick smoke. The film ends after the fire with general views of fire damaged buildings on the site and scorched earth. Title: The end End credit: Camera Peter Whitaker. Editing and sound Betty Cook Context Port Clarence catches fire A Port Clarence chemical works turns combat zone for Cleveland County firefighters. On 23 August 1976, a huge pall of thick black smoke was heading towards Middlesbrough. On the north bank of the River Tees, a British Steel Chemicals tip coated in pitch had caught fire. Over 24 hours, eighty firefighters from Cleveland and Durham brigades battled the raging blaze, which threatened Port Clarence with devastation. Captured on celluloid rather than mobile phone, an amateur filmmaker turned citizen journalist for this breaking news coup. How did he get so close? A grass fire had started one morning on the old Dorman Long site behind the Phillips Imperial oil terminal. The Evening Gazette reported that ‘within six hours, dozens of firemen were “minutes from a major disaster” as they struggled through foot deep lakes of burning pitch to protect storage tanks’ each containing 20,000 gallons of highly inflammable refined oil. Even the firefighters' hoses were catching fire. A Teesside amateur and member of the Cleveland Cine Club, Peter Whitaker, captured incredible footage of the emergency along with the aftermath, a charred industrial landscape and pitch melted and solidified into black mountains by the intense heat.