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EA burn limit 'unjustified', say wood recyclers

Fire at Waste Management Site

Wood recyclers fear that a four-hour burn limit for fires at waste sites will remain in the forthcoming revised fire prevention plan (FPP) guidance.

A consultation from the Environment Agency (EA) on the proposed new regulations, including the restriction, closed in March.

Despite negative reaction from the industry including the Wood Recyclers Association (WRA), a recent EA bulletin has suggested the limit will remain.

Although the EA claims there would be exceptions in certain circumstances, the WRA said it fears too much emphasis is being placed on a burn time limit.

The EA bulletin also said publication was now on track for July.

WRA chair Andy Hill said the trade body thought the guidance should focus instead on encouraging operators to improve detection of fires before they take hold.

He said: “We have never been sure where this time limit came from or how the figure was arrived at. Once again, it would appear that subjective opinions are getting in the way of scientific fact.

“We would be delighted to see the evidence to support the four-hour limit yet, despite repeated requests, it hasn’t been forthcoming.

“It is impossible to dictate on paper how long a fire can burn for. There are so many factors to consider, including the type of material, the location of the site, the time of year and so on.

“The only way to determine a safe outcome for any of these factors is for the Fire and Rescue Service to assess each situation on an individual basis as an incident occurs.”

Fire tests to provide empirical evidence for future storage regulations ran alongside the EA’s consultation.

Hill said the tests had proved that wood does not burn quickly so preventive action was more important. FPPs should be bespoke to each site, with stacks limits put in place according to the site’s size and shape.

“The key in all of this is about the FRS being able to work directly with operators on an individual basis and being allowed flexibility in managing incidents when they occur,” he added.

He said it was vital operators were able to run successful businesses within sensible and viable health and safety parameters.

“We hope the new FPP guidance will allow for this but our one question at the moment is around the four-hour burn time. We really feel this is neither helpful nor practical and is detracting from other issues that would have more of an impact.”

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