A man has been arrested in connection with the Luton Airport fire, police confirmed on Monday morning.
The man in his 30s was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and has been released on bail as enquiries continue. Bedfordshire Police told The Independent that the arrest was “precautionary” and that there is no suggestion the fire was started intentionally.
The huge blaze at London’s Luton Airport damaged up to 1,500 cars and sparked travel chaos. More than 100 firefighters battled through the night to extinguish the car park inferno, which left tens of thousands of passengers facing cancelled or diverted flights.
The force said on Monday that the man had been arrested several days after the fire and officers believe the blaze started when a diesel car, possibly a Range Rover, suffered an electrical fault or leaking fuel line.
Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service previously revealed the cause of the blaze was a diesel car.
A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said: “Police arrested a man in his 30s on suspicion of criminal damage in connection to their investigation into a significant fire in a car park at London Luton Airport on Tuesday (10 October).
“We are carrying out a thorough and diligent investigation into all potential lines of enquiry, as should be expected after such a major event.
“The man has been released on bail while our enquiries continue.”
The airport’s newly-built Terminal 2 car park partially collapsed after a fire broke out at around 9pm on Tuesday October 10. A major incident was declared as up to 1,500 vehicles were thought to be damaged inside the building.
Speaking to reporters at the scene, Andrew Hopkinson, chief fire officer for Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “On arrival my officers were faced with a severe and rapidly spreading fire involving a large number of vehicles that ultimately spread to multiple floors and involved a partial collapse of the car park.”
The major incident was stood down after the fire was brought under control on Wednesday morning.
There were no reports of injuries to members of the public, but five people - four firefighters and an airline official - were treated in hospital.
Mr Hopskinson also revealed to reporters at the scene that there were no sprinklers in the car park.
He said: “We are already talking to the airport about ensuring that any future, and the existing, car parks have sprinklers fitted because this building is not sprinkler protected.
“Sprinklers may have made a positive impact on this incident.”
After some speculation, the fire service confirmed the cause of the fire was a diesel car the morning after the fire.
“We don’t believe it was an electric vehicle,” Mr Hopkinson said. “It’s believed to be diesel-powered, at this stage all subject to verification. And then that fire has quickly and rapidly spread.”
As a result of the blaze, between 40,000 and 50,000 airline passengers were thought to have been affected by 273 suspended, cancelled or diverted flights.
Flights resumed on Wednesday afternoon as the delayed 1pm Ryanair flight to Cork finally took off at 3:30pm - 18 hours after the last plane left on Tuesday evening.
A Polish family on holiday in London told how they slept on the floor at Luton Airport as a result of the fire. Gregorz Szmit, 46, said: “We were on holiday for five days to visit London – British Museum, Trafalgar Square. This is difficult, I must say.
“This is our first journey to England, to London. It’s been an adventure.”
Several days after the blaze, it was reported that all vehicles in the car park were “unlikely to be salvageable”.
On the day after the fire, a senior fire officer told The Independent that the extreme temperatures during the blaze will have weakened the multi-storey car park so much that attempting to recover vehicles could be deemed too dangerous.
A spokesperson for Luton airport said: “Regrettably, it is unlikely that any vehicles in the car park will be salvageable. However, this is still in the process of being assessed.
“We are working with the Association of British Insurers on behalf of the many insurance companies to establish whether it will be possible to safely retrieve any personal possessions and, if so, how this process may work.”
By Friday October 13, just three days after the fire, Luton Airport said they had responded to almost 16,500 customer queries.
A spokesperson said: “We recognise this has been an extremely distressing time for all concerned and we would like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding.”