Fire services tend to two waste fires ignited during Bonfire weekend
Two large fires have been blazing at sites storing recycled waste during the Bonfire Night weekend, in Stoke-on-Trent and Walsall.
A fire which broke out at the former site of Hanbury Plastics Recycling (HPR) in Milton, Stoke-on-Trent has been confirmed as arson, just nine months after a previous attack at the same site.
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue received over 50 calls about the fire on Saturday (4 November) which saw black smoke rising over Stoke-on-Trent from the site on Redhills Road. Three engines responded and the blaze was contained in the early hours of Sunday morning, but firefighters remained at the scene throughout Monday to tackle the smouldering waste.
People in the area were advised by Stoke-on-Trent City Council to keep windows and doors shut, though risk to the public was described as minimal. Officers from the Environment Agency were on site in order to minimise any environmental impact, and confirmed that the fire has not contaminated any local watercourses.
Leek Station Manager Carl Mason told the Stoke Sentinel: “We attended at 2.50pm [on Saturday] to a serious fire involving around 200 tonnes of baled up waste, mainly plastic. There is an ongoing investigation with our colleagues at the police and we currently believe that it was deliberate ignition.”
The site was the location of another arson attack in February this year which involved around 1,500 tonnes of recycled plastics. The Environment Agency at this time reported that HPR had “never held an environmental permit” and was storing more waste than it was licensed to hold:
“HPR operated the site at Redhills Lane [sic] and it is an illegal waste site. We instructed the company to remove the waste, which went from a peak of around 10,000 tonnes to about 1,500 tonnes at the time of the fire.”
Locals had been calling for the site to be shut down from 2014, and HPR went into voluntary liquidation earlier this year, but large amounts of plastic remained on site. HPR have since registered at a new address in Manchester.
Although no one was arrested following the first arson attack, it has been reported that two teenagers have been arrested by Staffordshire police in connection with this weekend’s fire.
Major blaze at Walsall recycling centre
On Sunday evening (5 November) West Midlands firefighters were called to a blaze at the Fryers Road Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) in Walsall’s Leamore Enterprise Park.
Up to 70 firefighters were working during the height of the fire, utilising water pumped from the nearby canal, and remained on the scene throughout Monday. It appears the blaze was located inside the main site building, as crews were forced to cut open the shutters with angle grinders to reach the source of the fire.
Group Commander for the West Midlands Fire Service, Martin Ward-White, said the service had “ten appliances in attendance along with colleagues from ambulance, local authority, the Environment Agency and other agencies. We are mitigating the impact on the local area and are working to bring this incident to a close in a timely manner”.
Fryers Road is one of two HWRCs which serve the Walsall borough, collecting waste that cannot be disposed of at the kerbside including bulky household items, electrical goods and garden waste.
The cause of the fire has not yet been established, and while other businesses in the industrial estate remain open, the HWRC itself has remained closed since Sunday. Residents are being directed to Walsall’s other recycling centre in Aldridge, which has extended its opening hours this week.