Fire at wood recycling centre in Hertfordshire

Appspond Lane fire

Picture credit: Environment Agency

Fire fighters are still tackling a blaze at Woods Recycling Services in Hertforshire, days after the fire first ignited.

Eight appliances were deployed to tackle a fire that broke out at midnight on Saturday (10 November), at the Appspond Lane recycling site in Hertfordshire. Multiple fire crews from St Albans, Watford, Garston, Hemel Hempstead, Redbourn and Wheathampstead have been working to try to put out the flames.

The site, owned by Wood Recycling Services, handles biodegradable waste including green and wooden materials and is located beside the M1 at Potters Crouch near St Albans. It processes about 45,000 tonnes of wood per year by turning it into chips and sending it to biomass boilers in the UK and Europe.

According to Berkhampstead Today, the Environment Agency had suspended the operators' licence from importing compost or wood waste in September, due to poor management and over-capacity. The operators were also ordered to remove risk of heat, fire and serious pollution.

The large quantities of woodchip and recycled wooden pallets piled up at the centre have fuelled the flames and enabled the fire to take deep-root, making it extremely difficult to put out.

Speaking to Resource, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said that four appliances have been used through the course of the day today to tackle the fire: 3 engines and 1 high-volume pump.

‘At the moment, the services are focusing on containing the fire and stopping it from spreading, rather than extinguishing it. It is likely the fire will burn for some time.’

The spokesperson went on to say that it’s ‘more than likely’ the fire will be allowed to burn out of its own accord under a ‘controlled burn’ and that it’s ‘normal’ for a fire of this scale to take ‘days, or even weeks to extinguish’.

The scale of the incident has forced fire crews to use both available hydrants, and as a result nearby residents have been affected by reduced water pressure and occasionally a lack of water. Affinity Water has been providing emergency supplies of bottled water to those affected.

Motorists have also been faced with road closures due to the smoke spread by the fire. The A414 between the A405 Park Street roundabout and junction 7 of the M1 and the A4147 between King Harry Lane and Breakspear Way have been shut, and could remain closed until mid-week.

The council advises drivers in the area to take the following diversion route: A414 St Albans Road, A414 Two Waters Way, A41 Watford Road, A41 Gadeside, A405 North Orbital Road. Drivers have also been warned to expect congestion in Hemel Hempstead and St Albans.

Residents seeking the most up-to-date information are asked to follow the Twitter feeds for Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) on: hertsfrscontrol.

Those looking for information on the latest road closures and diversions in place, are asked to follow Hertfordhire Highways on: herts_highways.

According to the latest tweet from HFRS, relief crews have now taken over and HFRS are expecting to be ‘on-scene for the foreseeable future’.

Fires at recycling sites are quite common and can be long lasting due to the large volume and combustible nature of the materials being processed.