London’s Old Bailey evacuated following fire

Around 1,500 people were evacuated from the Old Bailey and its immediate surroundings in the City of London after a fire broke out at an electrical substation, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) has reported.

On the morning of 7 February 2024, LFB received six calls regarding a fire at the rear of the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) where the substation is located. In total, four fire appliances and 25 firefighters responded to the incident with crews from Dowgate, Soho, and Dockhead fire stations attending the scene.

As reported by BBC News, witnesses heard five separate explosions and black smoke could be seen coming from the building. Old Bailey and its surrounding areas were consequently evacuated, and people were advised to avoid the area while firefighters worked to tackle the fire. In a social media post, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) confirmed that 17 courtrooms had been listed to sit for trial, but the court was subsequently closed and all of the juries were sent home. There were no reports of any injuries:

Five separate explosions at 1030 am from one of the two power plants supplying the Court building were heard from the back of the court building as trials began or barristers were in judges’ chambers ahead of sitting. Smoke was then seen from the rear of the court building.

One eyewitness who was in the court gallery at the time of the incident told BBC Radio London: "The lights started flickering, they flickered again and all of a sudden we heard, 'get out'."

While there were no reports of any injuries, the ground floor substation was partly damaged in the incident. UK Power Networks, who was also at the scene, added that the fire had “affected power supplies in the area” and was working to restore them: "Engineers were called to Paternoster Square in London at 11:10 GMT after a fire was reported which has affected power supplies.

"We will work to restore supplies as quickly as is safely possible,” the network operator said.

LFB has since confirmed that the cause of the fire is under investigation.

(Photograph by the London Fire Brigade)