Spate of waste fires blight the north

A recent spike in waste fires across four fire and rescue service areas highlights the need for site owners to review fire safety guidance and regulations to protect communities and the environment.

In the last three weeks, five large waste fires have affected the north of England.

In one week, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service tackled two major fires at waste sites in Doncaster. In New Rossington, a fire at a recycling plant saw 50 tonnes of general household recycling alight. A second fire at a recycling centre in Balby involved 12 fire engines at its height with firefighters remaining on the scene for three days before the fire was fully extinguished.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “The Balby fire was a really challenging incident.”  

There have already been three huge waste fires this week alone. Humberside Fire and Rescue Service tackled a massive fire at a scrap yard in Goole, East Yorkshire. The Hull Daily Mail reported that local residents said the air smelt of putrefied plastic. The plume of black, toxic smoke could be seen for over 20 miles.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service responded to a scrap yard fire in Halifax involving skip waste material used for recycling spanning 50m2.

And in Lancashire, firefighters spent over five hours tackling a fire involving over 100 tonnes of plastic at a waste facility in Blackburn.

Commenting on the Goole fire, Chief Fire Officer Chris Blacksell said:

“This was a large and challenging incident which tied our resources up for days, at one point using seven fire engines, one Aerial Ladder Platform, a High Volume Pump, an Environmental Unit, two drones, 4 Officers and our 24/7 Welfare Support. The impact on the community is huge as well and we had to advise people to keep their windows closed for their safety, and of course the negative impact on the environment is also significant.”

Responding to spate of these types of fires in the last few weeks and advising what owners can do to prevent them, CFO Blacksell added:

“The cause is still being investigated, but we have had a significant number of this type of fire in recent years right across our area. I would remind all waste operators of their responsibilities under the Fire Safety Order and encourage them all to follow the Waste Industry Safety & Health Forum guidance for reducing fires at this type of site.”

WISH Good practice guidance: Reducing fire risk at waste management sites

Photo credit: Humberside Fire and Rescue Service