Firefighters containing large wood chip fire at EfW site

Investigators are looking into the cause of a fire that took hold of a warehouse of over 500 tonnes of wood chips in West Sussex over the weekend.

Fire fighters from West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service (WSFRS) were called to Rabbit Waste Management in Lancing at 1.15am on Sunday (11 June) morning after reports of a fire at the company’s 3,000m-square-metre warehouse containing over 500 tonnes of wood chippings being stored ahead of incineration.

Up to 50 firefighters from West Sussex and East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service attacked the fire using ground monitors and jets to prevent it spreading to the rest of the building and the facility’s plant room.

By 4.30pm on Sunday WSFRS reported that steady progress was being made with diggers being used to get to the seat of the fire in the warehouse’s wood chippings.

Crews remained on the scene yesterday, and are likely to remain on site until Wednesday evening, with officers from the Environment Agency, Southern Water and Sussex Police also involved. As well as damping down and extinguishing remaining firs, crews are helping Rabbit Waste Management Staff to remove 250 tonnes of unaffected wood pellets.

 An investigation has been started to determine the cause of the fire, though the fire service believes it to have been accidental.

Rabbit Waste Management is a local skip hire and commercial and industrial waste management firm. It has been based in West Sussex for 30 years and opened its £15-million biofuel waste incinerator in Lancing in 2008.

Confirming the fire, Managing Director Mick Adams said: “We can confirm a fire broke out in our facility in Lancing in the early hours of June 11. Nobody has been injured and the company’s emergency procedures were followed by onsite staff.

“The fire service attended and will continue to stay on site until they are satisfied that the fire is completely out and there is no chance of it reigniting. We would like to thank the fire service for their rapid response in bringing the fire under control.”

A spokesperson for the WSFRS said: “Thanks to all the crews that attended for the way they tackled the fire to stop it spreading, and a special mention to our control operator colleagues for managing the busy mobilising and standby moves to help maintain fire cover across the county.”

This is the second large waste fire to take place on the south coast in the last few weeks after 200 tonnes of scrap metal caught fire at MDJ Light Brothers in Lewes, East Sussex, causing the A27 to be closed for 12 hours.

New guidance issued to cut down on waste fires

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.

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.