100 firefighters needed at Birmingham scrap fire

100 firefighters needed at Birmingham scrap fire
Around 70 firefighters remain on the site of a ‘severe’ fire that contained approximately 800 tonnes of metal and mixed plastic and rubber at European Metal Recycling’s facility in the Saltey area of Birmingham.

More than 100 firefighters and 17 fire engines were fighting the fire at its height on Tuesday (29 March). West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) said that the smoke plume could be seen for several miles and that over 100 calls were received by members of the public, who started to call at 2.08pm to report the fire.

A statement released by the WMFS this morning said that, ‘in spite of some challenging conditions, crews have managed to make good progress overnight’, and confirmed that crews are likely to remain at the site for ‘a good part of today’ (Wednesday).

Three aerial platforms, high volume water pumping equipment and a mobile incident command unit, from which the operation is being coordinated, have also been used to fight the fire. Crews have been creating fire breaks in the scrap material in an effort to stop the fire spreading.

The WMFS says that at present it is believed that the fire was started accidentally. Staff from the company have been working with the fire service through the night, using their own heavy plant and lifting gear to help break up the scrap materials.

At one stage it was thought that up to 40,000 properties in Yardley, Sparkbrook, Sparkhill and Small Heath could be affected following damage to power lines above the site. However, Western Power have provided a temporary solution until repairs can be carried out. Operations at the nearby Birmingham Airport have been unaffected by the smoke plume.

100 firefighters needed at Birmingham scrap fire
Good progress made

Chief Fire Officer, Phil Loach, said on Tuesday afternoon: “Fire crews have made progress and the fire has now been surrounded. These types of incidents draw in a lot of resources in the initial stages – this is to prevent the fire spreading. It is likely to be a protracted incident and we will be dealing with the incident for at least the next 24 hours.

“Although this type of incident creates a surge in demand for firefighters and Fire Control, we will be re-distributing our remaining resources to provide the best protection possible in case of other incidents.”

A Public Health England spokesperson said: “Members of the public whose homes might be affected by smoke are being urged to keep their doors and windows closed as a precaution for the time being.

“Motorists who have to travel through the smoke should keep windows closed, turn off air conditioning and keep their air vents closed. The situation is being monitored and further advice will be issued when necessary.”

100 firefighters needed at Birmingham scrap fire
Waste fires being investigated

Firefighters have also this week been attending a waste fire engulfing 100 tonnes of plastic waste at a site owned by the Tudor Griffiths Group in Shropshire.

Earlier this year, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) announced that, along with the London Fire Brigade, Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum, Wood Recyclers Association (WRA), Environment Agency (EA) and Environmental Services Association (ESA), it would be conducting tests to provide up-to-date scientific data about the flammable properties of recyclable materials and other wastes stores on waste recycling sites.

The CFoA, says that, with the ever changing nature of wastes and waste handling methods, it is important to update knowledge of how these materials burn and how best to extinguish fires.

The trend of waste fires over the last 10 years has remained consistent at around 250 incidents per year, according to figures from the CFOA; the figures also show that more recently there have been a number of large-scale protracted incidents that have caused significant disruption to the fire service and local community. The cost to the fire and rescue services is estimated to be in the region of £16 million a year.

Results from the tests will be used to inform updated guidance on stack sizes and separation distances for the waste industry, with the aim of reducing the spread and severity of these fires. The results will also determine whether the EA makes changes to its permits for waste sites, so as to reduce the incidence of fires at these premises.

Read a comment piece from Mark Andrews, Waste Fires Lead, at the Chief Fire Officers Association, for Resource suggesting how the waste industry can reduce its fire risk.