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Five waste site fires in five days

There have been fires at five waste sites in the past five days, including some at facilities run by SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT and Recycling Lives.

Thursday

On Thursday evening (9 April), Lancashire Fire and Rescue received reports of a blaze at Recycling Lives’ recycling facility in Preston.

Approximately 100 firefighters from Lancashire Fire and Rescue and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Services were sent to the commercial metal and waste processing facility on Longridge Road after a fire broke out in a scrap metal storage bay. The fire involved scrap cars in an area measuring approximately 30 metres by 20 metres.

Specialist equipment, including aerial ladder platforms and foam pods, was sent to tackle the fire and prevent it from spreading to the recycling equipment. There were no reported injuries.

An investigation is now taking place and will continue throughout the next week to determine the cause of the fire. The site is now operating as usual.

Steve Jackson, CEO of Recycling Lives, said: “Thanks to the exceptional work of firefighters and the outstanding health and safety practises at Recycling Lives, the fire was quickly contained and there have been no injuries or damage to machinery. We are incredibly grateful to the firefighters and other emergency services who have helped us to deal with the incident, and we will continue to support their operations in any way we can.”

Friday

Several fires were reported at waste sites on Friday (10 April), with around 10 tonnes of scrap metal catching fire at GLJ Recycling Ltd in Newport, organic waste burning at All Waste Services in Llangadog, Carmarthenshire, and a ‘large’ wood stack catching light at SITA UK’s wood processing facility near Preston.

GLJ Recycling fire

The first fire on Friday involved around 10 tonnes of scrap metal. A metal recycling centre, thought to be run by GLJ Recycling, caught fire at Chapel Farm Industrial Estate in Cwmcarn, at around 7am on Friday morning.

Around 10 tonnes of scrap metal were said to be involved in the blaze, including rails, cars doors and kitchen appliances.

The fire was extinguished “within five minutes” of the firefighters’ arrival, but crews remained at the scene until the evening to dampen down the material.

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service has said it does not know if the fire was deliberate.

Resource contacted GLJ Recycling for a comment, but the company said it “did not want to talk about it”.

All Waste Services fire

Elsewhere in South Wales, three fire crews from Ammanford, Amman Valley and Llandovery were sent to All Waste Services’ transfer station, civic amenity, skip hire and recycling centre in Llangadog, Carmarthenshire, on Friday night, after the local fire service received reports of smoke emanating from the site. 

The fire, situated next to Carmarthenshire County Council’s Llangadog household waste recycling centre (HWRC), broke out in a pile of hay bales meant for composting at the Old Sawmills site on Station Road.

Two commercial warehouses were damaged in the incident, which also led police to close the A4069 and neighbouring HWRC for safety. The road and HWRC have since reopened.

SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT fire

Friday also saw a fire break out at SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT’s (formerly known as SITA UK) wood processing facility in Clifton Marsh, near Preston.

Crews were at the site from 10pm on Friday and remained there throughout the following day.

Station Manager of Fleetwood and Presall, Steve Chappell, was the incident commander of the operation. He said: “A pile of wood that the company use to chip down for fuel caught fire; it measured approximately 100 metres by 10 metres wide and four metres high. The main issue fire crews had was due to a much bigger pile of wood next to it, about three times as big.

“Huge efforts were made to protect the fire going to the bigger pile as that would have taken days to put out.”

Approximately 25 firefighters were still at the scene on Saturday morning to keep the smouldering fire under control.

The cause of the fire remains unknown but there is no indication that the blaze was started deliberately.

A spokesman for SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT said: “We would like to thank Lancashire Fire Service for its response in attending this fire on Friday night at our wood processing facility at Clifton Marsh. The fire was quickly contained and there was no risk to lives or property.

“A full investigation is now underway by us and the fire service to determine the cause of the fire.”

Saturday

Five waste site fires in five days
Crews tackling the AWO Bedford & Partners fire

Another major recycling site fire occurred on Saturday (11 April), when around 6,000 tonnes of organic waste caught fire at an agricultural composting site in Cambridgeshire.

The fire, situated at AWO Bedford & Partners in Ramsey Heights, Huntingdon, was reported to Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service at around 1.30pm on Saturday. It is thought that the fire was caused by natural combustion in the compost heaps, but strong winds had stoked the flames, causing it to spread rapidly.

Around 6,000 tonnes of organic waste were involved in the fire, which is still smouldering.  Local firefighters are still on site today (13 April) to dampen down the material and ensure that equipment and nearby buildings are not affected. The fire officers will meet with the landowners this afternoon to ‘discuss how to resolve the incident’.

Station Commander Kevin Napier commented: “Crews were met with a fire involving about 6,000 tonnes of organic waste material which was well alight, and they are working hard to prevent the fire from spreading.

“We do not believe anything harmful is burning, but, for their personal comfort, we would encourage residents to close their windows and doors if they do encounter smoke in the nearby area.

“Firefighting operations will continue for a while yet and we are working with the owners of the site to make progress with the incident.”

Waste site fire guidance

The waste industry has encountered an increasing number of waste site fires in recent years, with several breaking out in the past two weeks. Further to this, it is thought that there is an average of one fire per day at waste and recycling sites.

Speaking of the recent fires, Nicky Cunningham, Deputy Director of Site-Based Regulation at the Environment Agency (EA) said: “Everyone who disposes of waste has a duty of care to ensure their waste is handled correctly. We insist site operators have permits, systems and procedures in place to minimise fire risk. On GOV.UK we have recently published clear, streamlined guidance to the waste industry on the actions they must take to minimise the risk of waste fires.

“The Environment Agency recently ran a public consultation on changes to the rules for permitted waste sites. Within this we asked for views on the introduction of a new Fire Prevention Plan requirement for those permitted sites allowed to store combustible waste material. Changes from the consultation will come into effect in summer 2015. 

“While many in the waste industry work to high standards of safety and create positive environmental benefits, unfortunately some operators fail to operate within the regulations - creating a completely unacceptable risk to local people and the environment. The Environment Agency will investigate and take enforcement action against those who break the law.”

In an attempt to prevent fires from occurring, the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum issued new guidance last year to help waste site operators reduce fire risk.

Endorsed by the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA), and developed with input from the Environment Agency (EA), the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Health and Safety Laboratories (HSL), and other bodies, the guidance outlines how best to safely manage the storage of materials susceptible to combustion.

The Operations Director of the CFOA, Roy Wilsher, said that the guidance was “hugely useful”.

Find out more about the problems of waste site fires.

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