100 firefighters tackle blaze at SUEZ waste transfer station

Investigations have begun into the cause of a large fire on Saturday night (17 June) at a SUEZ waste transfer station and recycling centre in the Cornish town of Pool.

The blaze began in a store of recycling plastics at around 7.15pm and took more than 100 firefighters from across Cornwall five hours to extinguish. This weekend was the hottest of the year in Cornwall and the smoke emitted by the fire could be seen as far away as Truro and St Ives due to the clear skies.

100 firefighters tackle blaze at SUEZ waste transfer station in Cornwall
Following the fire, a Cornwall Fire Service spokesman said: "At 19:21 this evening Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service began receiving multiple reports of a fire at a recycling centre at Wilson Way, Pool.”

Staff at the site were concerned about a paper and cardboard recycling centre adjacent to the store of recycling plastics setting alight, although it appears that the building was unaffected. The fire drew a huge crowd as fourteen fire engines arrived on the scene from Newquay, Perranporth, Tolvaddon, Hayle, Falmouth, Wadebridge and St Just to tackle the blaze.

Speaking at the time, a Cornwall Fire Service spokesperson said: "Due to the information received on initial calls three fire appliances were mobilised to the scene. Crews confirmed the fire is involving a large warehouse measuring 80 x 60 metres used for storing recycling plastics.

"Crews soon increased their request for eight fire appliances to attend the fire, along with an aerial ladder platform, Incident Command Support, breathing apparatus support, welfare unit and a water carrier.

Fire services brought the fire under control and only one fire appliance remained at the scene for monitoring purposes at 1.30am, with all appliances departing by 4.30am.

A member of staff present at the scene told Cornwall Live: "It's the waste transfer shed containing domestic waste. It's all closed up so there was no one on the site. There's nothing hazardous as far as we're aware but there's a recycling centre next door and it's piled high with paper so I'm just worried in case it goes that way."

Burning issue

The recent clement weather, with Sunday registering the hottest June temperatures in the UK since 1976, vastly increases the risk of waste fires if the threat is not mitigated against.

Waste fires are a consistent issue for the waste and recycling industry, with the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) estimating that there have been around 250 incidents of waste fires per year for the last decade, with an estimated cost to fire and rescue services of around £16 million a year.

This summer has already seen a number of large waste fires in the south of England, with up to 50 firefighters called to a fire at a warehouse storing 500 tonnes of wood chips owned by Rabbit Waste Management Ltd in Lancing, West Sussex, while another fire involving 200 tonnes of scrap metal at MDJ Light Brothers in Lewes, East Sussex, causing the A27 to be closed for 12 hours.

To combat this, the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum has announced the publication of updated guidance on the prevention of waste fires, following a series of waste burn tests carried out over the course of 2015 and 2016 to develop understanding and scientific knowledge of waste fires. The new document provides informed guidance on details like stack sizes and separation distances.

The new guidance will be officially launched at a waste fires seminar at the National Fire College at Moreton-in-Marsh on 23 June.

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