‘Deep-seated’ fire at Sims recycling plant

A fire said to involve 12,000 tonnes of recycling material is burning at a Sims Metal Mangement UK site in Long Marston, Warwickshire.

Fire crews were called to the site at 9:10 p.m. on 30 April, with Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) reporting that eight fire engines were sent to tackle the blaze.

Although there were no reported injuries, local residents were advised by HWFRS to keep all windows and doors shut and listen to local radio for updates on the situation.

HWFRS stated last night (1 May) that Sims staff were helping fire crews ‘dig out’ a waste pile by using 'excavation grabs and large mechanical shovels to move the material from the pile of recycling' to help extinguish the fire 'more quickly’.

Station Commander Gary Jay from HWFRS said: “This is a deep-seated fire and we anticipate that it will be on-going for some time yet. We are monitoring the weather and wind patterns, and liaising closely with police, the Environment Agency, local health and on site staff to determine a plan as we move forward.”

The Environment Agency Midlands reported on its Twitter page yesterday that it was examining the effects of the fire, but had thus far found no cause for concern: ‘We’ve been out monitoring the local brooks and have not found any environmental impacts from #longmarstonfire in Warwickshire at present.'

In an update released today (2 May), HWFRS said that fire crews are making 'good progress towards extinguishing the fire', with three fire engines currently at the site, as well as a water carrier and a high volume pumping unit. 

Second fire in a month

Sims has been plagued with problems in recent months. This is the second fire at the Long Marston facility in less than a month. At 5:40 p.m. on 3 April, fire services were called to the site, where they battled a fire until 8:00 a.m. the following morning, when the operation was scaled down.

Two fire crews then remained and worked with Sims staff to ‘dig and damp down’ the fire.

Furthermore, in January 2013 it was announced that an internal investigation into ‘control failures and potential fraudulent conduct’ was being launched, prompting company share prices to fall by five per cent.

The suspected fraudulent activity is said to centre on an overvaluation of the company’s Long Marston and Newport waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) recycling business in the UK. Sims stated that the inventory of UK business at the two locations had been overestimated by ‘circa $60 million’ (£39.7 million).

A Special Committee of the Board, headed by Chairman Geoff Brunsdon, has now been formed to ‘take responsibility for the investigation that is in progress’.

The committee was said to be working with Group Chief Executive Daniel Dienst, Group Chief Finance Officer Rob Larry, external auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers and the company’s legal counsel Baker & McKenzie to help identify ‘where the breakdowns in the company’s control environment occurred, what initiatives will need to be taken to improve those controls, as well as overseeing the implementation of the recommendations it makes’.