NRW investigating Newport waste wood fire
South Wales Fire and Rescue was alerted to the fire at South Wales Wood Recycling Ltd at Newport Docks on Saturday evening. Thirty firefighters attended the fire, which has now been put out but is still being monitored as it could continue to smoulder ‘for weeks’.
An estimated 20,000 tonnes of woodchip waste, held onsite as it awaited recovery, burned in the fire. NRW had been taking action at the site and delivered an enforcement notice last month to tackle the stockpile due to the fire risk it posed.
A NRW statement said that oversized stockpiles are a fire hazard as there is a higher likelihood of self-heating which results in deep-seated fire. Smouldering hot spots had developed in the Newport stockpile, and the operator was instructed by the fire service to dig these areas out to spread and dampen them.
However, the situation escalated over the weekend, and the waste wood caught fire.
NRW officers are monitoring the impact of the smoke and firewater run off on the environment. Furthermore, they are advising the public to avoid areas affected by ash and smoke, which can exacerbate existing lung conditions.
Ashley Lansdown, of NRW, in response to the incident said: “The fire is no longer alight but is still smouldering in certain areas of the wood stockpile which could take weeks to resolve.
“In the meantime, we will continue to support the fire service and make sure we try and manage the environmental impact of the fire. We are also working with Public Health Wales so they can advise on the risk to people.
“We will also be investigating to look at what happened and how this can be avoided in the future and if we need to take further legal action.”
Fire Prevention Plan
The fire risks of wood storage has been addressed in England this year by the Environment Agency’s introduction of Fire Prevention Plan guidance.
Guidance for the storage of combustible materials was developed and released in March by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency (EA). Under the regulations, operators must have an EA-approved assessment of the risk of fire occurring on site and the measures in place to prevent them and minimise impact.
The guidance also reduced the maximum pile size for waste wood hauls, which forced Hadfield Wood Recyclers to close the gates at two of its sites, and led to the company calling the regulations ‘unworkable’ because of the scale of waste wood that needs to be stored to meet contract demands.
Further reductions in the allowed pile size have been proposed in a new EA consultation. New guidance proposes that the maximum pile height for unprepared wood be reduced from 10 metres to five metres to enhance heat dissipation from the pile.