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MP calls for nationwide fire database

A Labour MP has called for a national system to share information on fires at waste sites, which he said had cost the emergency services in England and Wales £32m in the last two years.

Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith made the proposal in a parliamentary debate on fires at waste facilities, which he had initiated.

“Fires at waste management sites cost public services, the industry and its insurers an arm and a leg,” he said.

Smith filed freedom of information requests to fire services to assess the financial impact of the problem across England and Wales.

“It became immediately apparent [to me] that there is not a standardised scale for costing these measures,” he said. “If we want to tackle this problem in the future, we need an agreed nationwide system, perhaps developed with the National Audit Office, that is transparent, credible and allows regions to share data and better understand the costs of these sorts of fires.”

Smith estimated from the data he had obtained that the cost of putting out blazes at waste sites was £32m over the last two years.

Merseyside and South Wales forces, for example, had indicated that tackling a single blaze cost an average £48,000.

Resource minister Dan Rogerson, who joined the debate, said that fire services already supplied data to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The Environment Agency, Natural Resource Wales and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency also separately collect information from the operators of permitted sites on the scale and nature of environmental impacts associated with fires.

The minister said that Defra will work with DCLG to ensure that data collected by the agencies and the fire authorities was “as consistent and robust as possible.”

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