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Baled waste causes blaze at former warehouse

lichfield fire

A fire involving around 5,000 tonnes of baled waste, said to be illegally stored refuse-derived fuel (RDF), has hit a former GKN warehouse in Staffordshire.

Fire crews were called to the site at an industrial estate in Lichfield at 7.22pm on 13 June. Eight fire engines and around 65 firefighters brought the blaze under control.

Around 10% of the waste is estimated to have been affected.

The fire was expected to burn “for some time”, according to Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), and a large plume of smoke has affected the area.

But SFRS said the fire had now been completely extinguished. The service had conducted a risk assessment at the site before the incident and was able to put a multi-agency plan into effect to prevent the fire completely destroying the building.

Local businesses had complained about the site last year and it is reported that the baled waste had been illegally dumped.

Glynn Luznyj, director of prevent and protect at SFRS, said: “Crews were faced with a large area of baled waste inside the building on fire.

“We’re disappointed that this is fourth waste fire we have had in the county in the past 12 months.”

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has warned farmers and land owners that they need to scrutinise properly any request to store baled waste on their land, following concerns of a “growing problem” driven by criminal gangs.

It follows recent incidents where farmers across Wales, and at an industrial unit near Wrexham, have accepted waste for temporary storage. The bales typically contain mixed partially shredded wastes including plastics and biodegradable materials.

The bales are highly combustible but rapid action by the owner of the building near Wrexham – with advice from NRW and North Wales Fire and Rescue Service – prevented a major fire.

NRW said landowners should be aware that the storage of baled waste is tightly regulated and they need an environmental permit.

Nick Thomas, north-east Wales operations manager for NRW, said: “Landowners may let industrial units in good faith to tenants but, as recent incidents have shown, there are unscrupulous operators looking to dump waste anywhere they can. The landowner is often left with significant quantities of waste, which is potentially damaging to the environment, and a large bill to remove it legally.”

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