‘Aggressive firefighting’ taking place at Averies

The Environment Agency has had to clear 1,000 tonnes of waste from a Swindon waste site that has been on fire for over a month to allow ‘aggressive firefighting’ to start.

The emergency call about the blaze at Averies Recycling (Swindon) Limited (ARSL) was made at 5.15pm on 21 July. By the time fire fighters arrived, nearly a 1,000 tonnes of general waste and building waste had caught alight.

At the height of the blaze, six fire engines, two water carriers, an operational support unit and an incident command vehicle attended it. Military firefighters and special equipment from RAF Brize Norton were also used to bring the fire under control.

Enforcement notice

Earlier in August, ARSL was served with an enforcement notice to move 3,000 tonnes of smouldering waste from its site so that the fire could be extinguished.

As ARSL failed to remove the waste, either voluntarily or in compliance with the notice, the Environment Agency appointed contractors to do the job so that fire crews could break down the stack of burning material and make further progress in extinguishing the fire.

Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has said that this ‘aggressive firefighting’ will involve more than a dozen firefighters pouring thousands of litres of water per minute on the fire every day from 7am until 4pm. The process is expected to continue for several weeks.

According to Swindon Borough Council, a fire of this nature would usually be allowed to burn out on a managed basis, which could take months. However, in this case ‘aggressive firefighting’ is being used due to ‘the disruption [the fire] is causing for local businesses and residents’.

Local residents and businesses have been warned that the work is likely to result in increased volumes of smoke, similar to those experienced in the early days of the fire.

Swindon Borough Council and Public Health England are going to be monitoring the air quality and will inform people if there are any additional measures they need to take to protect their health. Those living nearby are advised to close windows and stay indoors.

“This marks a significant step forward”

Ian Jeary, Area Manager at Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We are pleased that fire crews will soon be able to intensify their work and this marks a significant step forward in this inevitably long and complex operation.

“Significant quantities of waste have now been removed from the site and this essential process will carry on, as the aggressive fire fighting gets underway.”

He added: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their patience and support during this difficult time, particularly those directly affected by the fire. Unfortunately the situation will seem worse before it gets better, but everything possible is being done to minimise disruption and bring this fire to an end.”

Read more about the outbreak of the fire and the enforcement notice to remove waste.