Fire officers and officials of the new airport yesterday defended the length of time taken to extinguish a blaze in the passenger terminal on Wednesday night. Airport Authority project director Douglas Oakervee said there would have been no danger to travellers if Chek Lap Kok had been open and fully operational. All emergency procedures had worked well, he added. However, with many new workers arriving at the site for the final fitting out, more work on fire prevention needed to be carried out, he said. A fire started in the United Airlines office on the departures level at 9.30 pm on Wednesday. Employees of the contractor and authority fire service attended immediately and the first crews from the Fire Services Department arrived within five minutes. However, the blaze was not contained until 11.53 pm and was extinguished at 12.48 am. Acting Deputy Chief Fire Officer for the New Territories, Albert Chan Ting-kai, said the sprinkler system had contained the fire to the one office. Still, thick, black smoke soon covered an area measuring 300 metres by 40 metres of back-room offices. 'In a smoke-logged environment, no matter how talented, you have to spend some time wearing breathing apparatus,' he said. Mr Oakervee, who said some of the smoke may have been caused by the burning of construction and packing materials left in the office, said the cause and cost of the fire was still being investigated. The clean-up, which started yesterday, should take about a week before United Airlines contractors can continue fitting out the office ahead of the July 6 opening. The opening would not be delayed by the fire and neither would emergency evacuation procedures be changed, Mr Oakervee said. 'We have very precise procedures on this and the system now in place automatically comes into play, which is the warning system on the public address,' Mr Oakervee said.