Published: 07:10, 11 October 2018
| Updated: 11:40, 16 October 2018
A huge fire has engulfed one of Europe's largest coffee factories.
Ten crews were called to the ground floor of warehouse buildings owned by UCC, formerly known as United Coffee, on the Riverside Industrial Estate just before 6am after an employee raised the alarm.
The 1,600 sq m factory and around 50 local residents were evacuated, although they have now been allowed to return home.
Dramatic videos show huge fire at United Coffee
A drone has been deployed to support crews and a height vehicle is also at the scene, with firefighters using main jets to tackle the blaze.
A Kent Fire and Rescue spokesman said: "Firefighters are expected to remain on the scene of the Dartford warehouse fire in the Riverside industrial estate for the rest of the day and into the evening.
"There are currently around 45 firefighters in attendance and height vehicles are being used to attack the fire with water from above.
"The smoke coming from the incident has eased since this morning, however advice for people living and working nearby to keep windows and doors closed remains in place."
24-year-old Jack Player was lives five minutes away and saw the fire at around 5pm.
He said: “I saw big flames coming from the coffee factory and around 10-15 fire engines down there.
“I have no idea how it started, but it was at about five o’clock this morning.
“They were very organised and doing their job well – ginormous flames and big black smoke everywhere, they were bigger than the block of flats.
Videos posted on social media show a large number of firefighters tackling the blaze, as flames continue to rip through buildings on the site.
Neighbour Claire Wheeler said: "I woke up at 5.45am to a very loud popping sound. I looked out of the window to see the factory on fire.
"Obviously I called 999 but they had already been called.
"I have only lived here on the new estate for a year.
"The factory is in constant use. I've never heard or seen any problems before. You can always smell coffee.
"There were 10 fire lorries all using their hoses. One fire man asked the water board to see if they could get more water pressure. The fire is now under control.
"Surprisingly, there's no smell of coffee."
Anna Turner, who lives nearby, tweeted: "Shocked to see this as I stepped outside my door this morning. I hope no one got hurt."
James Walsh wrote: "Huge fire at gala coffee in Dartford this morning. A lot of fire crew there.
"I believe they are manned 24 hours, hope no one is injured."
It's not the first time the building has been hit by fire. Staff were evacuated in 2015 after a blaze broke out in machinery.
The site is owned by Japanese coffee giant UCC, which has sales of £2 billion worldwide and has its UK headquarters in Milton Keynes.
The Dartford site at one point received 1% of the globe's coffee exports every year, equating to 9,000 tonnes or a whopping one billion cups of coffee.
Formerly known as United Coffee before a rebrand in 2014, the roastery in Dartford is one of the largest in Europe.
It is thought to employ about 80 people.
UCC managing director Elaine Swift said: "Early this morning, a fire broke out at our Dartford Roastery within the Riverside Industrial Estate.
"No employees were hurt, and we understand the fire has been contained in the warehouse area.
"We have a team on site managing the incident and helping the Fire Brigade and a disaster recovery team in full flow focussing on business continuity.
"We are working hard to secure production and supply for our customers to minimise disruption and will be supported by our European roasteries if necessary.
"We will share regular updates as and when we can."
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