A FIRE that destroyed a factory in Ferndown is thought to have been caused by an electrical fault, investigators said this afternoon.

Firefighters carried out an investigation this morning to find out what caused a blaze that ripped through an industrial unit, destroying the building and its contents.

The emergency services were called to the Ferndown Industrial Estate at around 5.30pm yesterday.

People living close by reported hearing loud explosions and said they could see thick black smoke.

Jacques Steventon, 20 and from Blandford, was in the area with a friend when he saw smoke.

"We were driving down towards Merley and saw loads of engines fly past and saw the smoke.

"That's some distance away, but we thought we would investigate. There were fire hoses absolutely everywhere.

"The water turned to steam, it was ridiculous.

"Parts of the building kept relighting and the smoke was very thick. You could taste the plastic in the smoke in your mouth.

"There was lots of material falling from the smoke."

Dorset Fire and Rescue Service and Dorset Police were sent to the scene.

Several ambulance units, including incident support vehicles, also arrived at the estate, alongside the Red Cross volunteer support team.

It is thought that firefighters initially fought the flames inside the building, before explosions caused them to withdraw to outside the factory.

A police spokesman said officers were called at 5.40pm to the Metal Finishings building on Haviland Road to help at the scene.

The road was closed at its junction with Cobham Road.

Speaking to the Daily Echo at the scene at around 8.30pm, Assistant Chief Fire Officer Colin Chapman said: "It's quite a severe fire in an industrial unit, involving electro-metal plating.

"We've had about 60 firefighters in total.

"We have got a lot of people down on site at the moment.

"It was a fantastic job by the crews who were here initially, they managed to contain the fire to the unit involved.

"The next stage is to put a foam blanket on what remains of the fire to continue to protect the adjacent premises and finally extinguish what has been a complicated fire to fight."

He confirmed that the building was empty at the time of the fire.

The police spokesman said officers had been informing neighbours to keep their windows closed.

Multiple appliances, including the aerial ladder, were sent to the scene. Some left as the fire was brought under control.

Representatives from the gas and electric companies and the Environment Agency were also sent to the scene.

By 11pm on Saturday just one pump remained on the scene.

In all, 12 fire appliances from across the county were sent to incident at the height of the blaze.

A further 12 were moved around the county to cover for those at Ferndown.