Neighbours have reacted with shock and concern to the scrapyard fire at EJ Shanleys, which saw a thick plume of smoke hanging over the town throughout Saturday.

Crews were called to the Shails Lane site at 9.39am on Saturday, and worked continuously to fight the blaze.

Many local residents left their homes at the sight of the smoke, and gathered at a series of police cordons where the nearby roads had been closed.

James Underwood, of Bythesea Road, said: “I woke up about 9.30am and I could see the smoke from my home.

“We went down to see what happening; we were in the car park on the corner and the flames were humongous, I can’t describe it.

“It’s been all over Facebook, people are saying it’s a terrible shock, a real shame. Apparently it happened again there, exactly a year ago.

“A lot of people are worried about fumes from the rubber, but they’ve told us it’s safe.”

Keith Morris, landlord at the nearby Twelve Bells, said people have been coming into the pub, which has a garden overlooking the yard, to get a better view of the fire.

“We have got a good view”, he said. “People are coming in here just to see it.

“It hasn’t died down, and the fumes are looking yellow.

“I heard about 10.30am; some of the local lads were having lunch and they came in to say there was a fire, and the site had erupted. They reckon there’s a thousand cars in that pile.

“No-one’s said anything to us about evacuating, but if those fumes were coming this way we wouldn’t be drinking in here, I can tell you that.”

The safety cordon has been maintained around the scrapyard by Wiltshire Police officers, who have been supported by the nearby Sainsbury’s store.

PC Rowe, of Trowbridge Police Station, said: “We have cleared all the pedestrians out of the area, but I don’t know any more than that.

“Sainsbury’s have been brilliant; they came out with bottles of water, and they let our emergency services use their staff canteen. They have been a great support.”

Wiltshire Council are advising people living near the fire that they may want to close windows and doors as a precaution to avoid the smoke.

A spokesman for Wiltshire Council said: “Due to a slight breeze, the smoke plume is currently heading over the North Bradley, Southwick and West Ashton areas.

“It appears the smoke only carries a low risk to local people. Despite this, all smoke is an irritant and people are advised to take sensible precautions. There is no need to restrict daily movements but, if you can see or smell smoke, you may wish to consider closing doors and windows as a precaution. This will be especially relevant for people with a pre-existing respiratory condition.”

The spokesman said the fire was now under control and improving. There are four appliances on site in addition to a water carrier and a mobile command centre to co-ordinate the response.

The site managers are working to keep non-burning items away from the seat of the fire by creating a fire break.

The closure of Wicker Hill, Hill Street and Seymour Road remains in place. Police say there will be no access to the one way system there and are asking motorists to seek alternative routes.

The fire involved approximately 750 tonnes of scrap material and at the height of the blaze about 40 firefighters were involved.

Six appliances, two from Trowbridge, Bradford on Avon, Melksham, Westbury and Warminster, plus a water carrier from Ramsbury and an incident support unit from Devizes, were at the scene.

A Wiltshire Fire and Rescue spokesman said the appliances from Trowbridge, Melksham and Warminster were due to participate in the strike action called for today but have remained at scene and are continuing to deal with the incident.

The spokesman added that despite this major incident, emergency cover for the county remained good due to the resilience plans put in place prior to the strike commencing. The strike ended at 5pm yesterday.