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Essex fire destroys 21,000 tonnes of woodchip destined for Dalkia biomass plant

A fire at an Essex wood recycling site continues to burn seven days after it began, destroying 21,000 tonnes of material.

Ten fire engines from Essex County Fire & Rescue Service attended Rio Recycling in Orsett, Essex, on 5 July at 4.14pm. It was originally thought that 200 tonnes of wood was affected, with half of it alight. Hours later it was estimated that 40,000 tonnes of woodchip stored in a quarry 80ft deep and 600ft wide was involved. The actual figure is 21,000 tonnes.

A spokesperson told MRW that the wood had been stockpiled ready for when the Dalkia BioEnergy biomass plant in Chilton, County Durham came online this month. The cause of the fire is thought to be arson and it is currently under investigation.

A controlled burn has been in place since the evening of 5 July. According to the fire services, it poses no threat to the local community.After speaking with the Environment Agency, fire crews are allowing the fire to burn itself out in a controlled way rather than attempting to extinguish the blaze.

Essex County Fire& Rescue Service divisional officer Ray Skinner said: “With incidents like this, we have to make an assessment about the best way to proceed and, in this instance, the best option is for us to allow the wood to burn itself out in a controlled fire.”

Rio director Peter Alexander said: “We have been operating at the Rio site for the last three years and have had the wood reprocessing business running very well for the last 18 months. The fire will set us back for a while until we can get the clean-up done, but then we can resume our part in supporting the country’s most advanced renewable energy facility.”

Once the fire is extinguished, Rio will remove the waste ash and rebuild the bund earthworks surrounding the site. Once the site has been restored the wood reprocessing operation will resume, continuing to provide fuel for the Chilton plant. According to the firm, the economic impact is “considerable” but its aggregates division will operate as normal.

Two fire engines are currently monitoring the site.

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