A massive fire at a West Midlands depot run by J & A Young, one of the industry’s largest operators, has been described as ‘under control’.
At its peak, the blaze at Smethwick was fought by 200 firefighters and over 40 fire engines and aerial ladders. Today (3 July), 15 firefighters and three fire engines remained at the scene. A spokeswoman from West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) said that it was reviewing the situation and planning to make a decision about when to remove the fire crew presence.
Area commander Steve Vincent said: “This is the largest fire that we’ve had in the West Midlands.”
An estimated 100,000 tonnes of plastics was involved in the fire, which had been set alight by a Chinese lantern that drifted into the depot.
WMFS said: “We are very conscious this is yet another waste site fire, of which we have had 15 so far this year in the West Midlands.”
MRW reported that the rise in the number of fires at waste sites in recent years reversed in 2012 according to Environment Agency figures. However, industry sources have raised concerns over stockpiling as a result of China’s Green Fence policy, which came into force in February.
Phillip Ward, former director at WRAP tweeted: “#smethwickfirelargest but also the latest in a string of major recycling fires. Surely time for a review of fire risk in recycling.”
In response, Stephen Freeland, policy executive at the ESA told MRW: “Clearly any incident of this kind is highly regrettable and underlines the need for everybody in the waste and recycling industry to work together to minimise fire risk. As part of its commitment to improved health and safety in the sector, ESA recently agreed to develop guidance on engineering methods to reduce fire risk at recycling facilities.”
The Resource Association’s chief executive, Ray Georgeson said: “Managing fire risk should be an integral part of all operators’ health and safety plans at all times. It is not helpful to link this to any concerns some may be raising about stock levels as a result of Operation Green Fence – vigilance and good health and safety practice should always be the order of the day.”
J & A Young did not respond to MRW’s requests for comment.