Firefighters tackle Somerset landfill blaze

Fire fighters are still on site in Somerset after a fire broke out across a 10,000-square-metre section of landfill over the long, hot weekend.

The deep-seated blaze broke out at the Dimmer Landfill Site in Castle Cary, operated by Viridor, just after 4.30pm on Monday (28 August), with crews attending from Wincanton, Yeovil, Shepton Mallet, Somerton, Street and Bridgewater.

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service (DSFRS) said that specialist appliances had to be used to combat the blaze, while appliances were also provided by fire services in Dorset & Wiltshire Fire Service to assist with the incident.

By 11.20pm crews had managed to reduce the area on fire to 600 square metres, but the fire service warned that due to its deep-seated nature the fire would be protracted and could last for days.

Updating the situation this morning, DSFRS said that crews working on two separate sectors of the site had made ‘steady progress’ through the night using water from the nearby River Brue.

Staff from Viridor have been working with DSFRS this morning to separate the waste affected and create a fire break to stop it spreading. Excavators have also been used to expose hot spots in the waste so that they can be damped down by firefighters.

The plume of smoke rising from the burning landfill was visible from miles around and while the Environment Agency is monitoring the air in the area, local residents have been advised to keep their windows and doors closed.

Around 120,000 tonnes of Somerset household rubbish is landfilled each year at both the Dimmer site and the county’s other landfill in Walpole, by Bridgwater, every year. This is the third major fire to break out at the site in recent years. From 2020, all Somerset rubbish will be sent to an energy-from-waste plant being built at Avonmouth.

UPDATE: Firefighters left the site on Tuesday afternoon after extinguishing the fire in just under 24 hours. 

Certain items helping fires to start

Though a cause for the fire has yet to be determined, it highlights the need to avoid putting certain objects and materials in black bin bags or residual waste bins, according to the Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP), which manages waste services for five district councils in the county as well as Somerset County Council.

Among the items that the partnership says should never be added to the rubbish bin are:

  • Hot ash or part-burned materials from domestic or garden fires or barbeques;
  • Household batteries, which may cause sparks or explode;
  • Broken glass not carefully wrapped or bagged, which could act as a magnifying lens; and
  • Aerosols, which can get hot or be pierced during the landfill process. 

As well as the danger of a landfill fire like this one when staff are working or a blaze in a rubbish collection vehicle, the SWP says, a fire in a rubbish bin could spread, threatening families or businesses.

A SWP spokesperson said: “These are common sense precautions to avoid the risk of fire. And recyclable items – including batteries and aerosols – should never be in household rubbish.”

The household waste recycling centre (HWRC) on the Dimmer site will remain open as the incident continues, but the SWP says that waste from household collections is being diverted to the Walpole landfill near Bridgwater, with longer journey times likely to mean delays to collections across several areas in the county.

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