FIREFIGHTERS have handed back the site to Ocado after three days of tackling the blaze which ripped through the warehouse. 

Around 200 firefighters from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) and neighbouring services were at the centre in Walworth Business Park from around 2.30am on Tuesday. 

HFRS worked alongside its local resilience forum multi agency partners to minimise the disruption to nearby businesses and residents.

HFRS group manager Nigel Cooper said: "Our teams, and colleagues from Oxfordshire, Dorset & Wiltshire, Royal Berkshire and Hertfordshire have shown commitment and professionalism in dealing with a complex operation in incredibly challenging circumstances."

A video posted by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service shows the burnt-out remains of the gutted customer fulfilment centre.

Ocado's staff community of more than 700 employees has been “devastated” by the turn of events.

The online supermarket nearly one-and-a-half years ago expanded its workforce creating an extra 200 jobs at its Walworth Business Park site, which hosts 10 per cent of Ocado’s national operation.

Staff’s future was plunged into uncertainty as the extent of the situation unfolded on Tuesday, when initially both the night and day shift teams were sent home.

On social media, senior people partner at Ocado Kim Lund, has been sending updates to its staffing family.

Ms Lund said: “On Monday we had over 700 people employed in Andover and although we had a devastating fire, guess what - we still have over 700 employees! We value our people and for that reason everyone is still employed and being paid until further notice.

“Whilst it is still early days we have numerous teams in various locations who are working tirelessly to plan next steps and provide guidance to staff.”

A drop-in centre had been organised for staff over Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week at the Wolversdene Club to offer advice on pay and next steps.

Today's drop-in will run from 10am to 5pm.

Ms Lund added: “I know we are all reeling at the moment so if you just want a chat and a catch up with your Ocado ‘family’ please come along.

“I am extremely grateful for our onsite staff who’ve shown amazing strength and resilience over the past two days - Team Managers, Ops Managers, Engineering, H&S, IT, HR, Training, senior managers and many others from Head Office.

“Also to all our other employees who have supported each other and offered very kind words.”

One dedicated employee, Nathan Oates, took 144 bottles of water and chocolate bars to the emergency services as they battled the fire overnight on Tuesday.

Nathan said: “I couldn’t stand around watching the company that I work for burn down to the ground and see all these firefighters running around and the police trying to do their job moving people to safety, without having a break or a drink.”

“We went up there to try and help out really. A lot of people were parking in front of the water supply and stopping the firefighters doing their job.

“It was really hectic no one knew what really was going to happen. I’m just glad everyone is okay could have been a lot worse. The firefighters were the true heroes but a lot the ambulance crew and the police did such a good job!”

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) said it has been talking to Ocado about the impact of the incident on its employees.

Daniel Adams, USDAW national officer said: “Initially the message to some employees at the site appears to have included the use of holiday and unpaid leave. Following discussions we are pleased that the company have now decided to pay employees for the hours they were rostered to work until further notice, regardless of previous communications.”

“We will continue our dialogue with the company on the longer term implications and provide our members with the support, advice and representation they need at this difficult time.”

Ocado has been contacted for comment.