Tonnes of waste keep smouldering despite sitting in water
Updated 3:09pm Thursday 6th February 2014 in By Jill Crooks, Devizes area senior reporter
The fire at Wiltshire Waste (Recycling) near Devizes could continue to burn for another week, the county’s fire service has said.
It began just before 5pm on Tuesday last week at the site at the foot of Monument Hill and involved 300 tonnes of general waste.
Fire crews had it under control two hours later, but it was decided to let the fire burn itself out.
White smoke has been issuing ever since. The cause is not known, but the fire service believe it was accidental.
The decision to leave the fire to burn itself out was agreed after discussions with the Environment Agency, as it said trying to extinguish the blaze would have required a massive amount of water, which would then have been contaminated.
Workers at the site are continuing to use a mechanical digger to keep non-burning items away from the seat of the fire and to turn over the smouldering waste, which encourages it to burn and then die out more quickly.
Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service left the scene last Thursday but officers are making daily inspections of the site to monitor the progress of the turning over and to ensure no further issues arise.
A fire service spokesman said: “With the current weather forecasts it is expected that the affected area could continue to smoulder – and therefore produce smoke – for a further week.
“Wiltshire Council’s public health team have carried out air monitoring in the area immediately around the site and are satisfied that the smoke only carries a low risk to local people.”
The spokesman said that despite there being no particular toxic hazards, people may wish to consider closing doors and windows as a precaution. This will be especially relevant for people with a pre-existing respiratory condition.
Despite the fire, Wiltshire Waste (Recycling) is continuing to operate as normal and the company has suffered a financial loss of a few hundred pounds from saleable material that was destroyed in the fire.
Paul Mortimer, operations manager at Wiltshire Waste (Recycling), said he was surprised the fire was still smouldering.
He said: “The fire is in two feet of water and it’s a damp, smouldering heap but it’s deep seated and it remains hot in the centre. It’s very well controlled and monitored and is totally sealed.
“This is the first time we have had a fire of this type of material in 40 years. We are at a loss as to why it happened and we will investigate fully and once we know we will take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“We wish to express how grateful we are to Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, the police and ambulance service who attended, the Environment Agency and our staff for all their help in dealing with the fire.”
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