JL Sorting fire still burning 10 days on

Widnes warehouse smoke and smouler

Cheshire fire chiefs have reissued a statement to local Halton Borough residents to keep doors and windows closed due to potential health risks from inhaling smoke issuing from the fire still burning at JL Sorting paper and plastic warehouse on Johnson’s Lane in Widnes, Cheshire.

The ‘major’ fire, which first broke out 10 days ago, has been under constant surveillance by Cheshire Fire Services, which is now working with demolition teams to tackle the few remaining ‘pockets of fire’.

At its peak, the fire was attended by over 60 firefighters and 15 fire engines. There are currently just two fire engines in attendance, along with demolition teams to try and ‘damp down’ the remaining burning recyclables.

In a statement, Cheshire Fire Services said that these stacks were the main task at hand: ‘It is an extremely difficult task which will take some days to complete as there are deep-seated fires in stacks of waste material up to 30 metres high. These are unstable and located within the warehouse buildings that have been severely weakened by extreme temperatures making them liable to collapse.

‘Crews have been liaising with the Environment Agency to minimise water run off from the site. On site monitoring of smoke continues to be carried out.’

Though there is still thought to be no severe risks to public health, the council warned that due to heavy overnight rain on Saturday and a change of wind direction, air-borne particulates may now be coming closer to the ground, especially in the area of Fiddlers Ferry power station and West Warrington.

The council has advised residents in this area to keep doors and windows closed, and return indoors if affected by a sore throat when outside. However, it has said that people should go about their normal business.

In a statement on Halton Borough Council website, the council says: ‘People living and working in the area should go about their normal business, but keep out of the smoke as much as possible, as it could be a slight irritant. Keep doors and windows closed to reduce smoke entering buildings. If there is an ash fall, use a wet cloth to wipe down the surface which will help avoid creating any dust from the ash. The cloth should then be put in the bin.’

Cheshire Fire Services has also asked local residents to keep homes well sealed as smoke is still issuing from the site. Those concerned are asked to visit the Health Protection Agency’s website for more information on smoke inhalation.

Johnson’s Lane remains closed and diversions are in place. The household waste and recycling centre (HWRC) is closed until further notice and residents are advised that the HWRC at Picow Farm Roadm Runcorn can be used as an alternative, but delays are expected.

Halton Borough Council and Cheshire Fire Services have said they will also provide assistance to local businesses affected by the fire and the council is currently rearranging vehicle parking and making arrangements for a site to be made available to some haulage companies.

“We are working with nearby haulage companies to allow them temporary access to their sites, however, premises immediately adjacent to the site will remain closed while we continue to tackle the incident”, said Cheshire Fire Services Group Manager, Mike Anderson.

A spokesperson for Cheshire Fire Services told Resource that though the weather could ‘make a difference’ to the speed at which the fire is fully extinguished, Cheshire Fire crews ‘could be there for weeks yet’.

Daily updates on the status of the JL Sorting fire as well as a video of the fire are available from Cheshire Fire Services.