Update on blaze at Alex Smiles scrapyard as 'significant progress' made

Work to tackle a blaze at a former recycling depot in Sunderland has moved onto a new stage after "significant progress" was made.

Monday, 21st May 2018, 2:10 pm
Updated Monday, 21st May 2018, 2:11 pm
An aerial image of the site before some of the waste was cleared at the weekend. Picture courtesy of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

The fire broke out at the former Alex Smiles waste site in Deptford last Monday.

Since then, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Sunderland City Council, the Environment Agency and Public Health England have been battling to put it out.

Waste piled up against the doors of the building before it was cleared. Image courtesy of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

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A more aggressive approach is now set to be taken after contractors moved waste from the area nearest the fire to safer areas on site.

It comes as firefighting moves from containing and cooling the blaze to removing hot material from the building.

Work to remove smouldering waste from the main warehouse will begin later today.

Nearby residents have been warned that more smoke will be visible, and there will be an increased odour coming from the site in the next few days.

An aerial image showing press made over the weekend. Image courtesy of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

Sunderland City Council chief operating officer Les Clark said: “This is about protecting public health first and foremost.

"That’s why we have unanimously agreed to intervene, now that it’s safe to do so, as quickly and effectively as possible to limit the risk to people living and working nearby.

“By taking a more aggressive approach to tackling the fire we stand a much better chance of bringing this to a safe conclusion sooner than would happen otherwise.

“Clearly the health and well-being of our communities has to be our prime concern.

The area was cleared over the weekend to create a safe working space. Image courtesy of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

"We’re doing everything we can working with our partners to bring this to a safe and effective conclusion as soon as we can.”

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief officer Alan Robson said: “We remain with 16 firefighters on site along with the Environment Agency.

"Contractors are removing waste from areas surrounding the affected buildings, reducing the risk of a further spread of the fire.

“Our crews continue to apply a number of ground monitors, drawing water from the Wear via our High Volume Pump.

"Whilst people nearby may see an occasional light plume of smoke as we further dampen down the waste, we are working hard to minimise any further smoke emissions.”

The Environment Agency and Sunderland City Council have been monitoring air quality around the site since the fire started and that will continue.

Environment Agency area duty manager Alan Cadas said: "We had comprehensive plans in place to deal with issues on the site and this multi-partner response has helped ensure the blaze was contained and impact on the environment has been minimised as much as possible.

“Our field operations team has been working hard to contain the firewater to protect local businesses adjacent to the site and we are continuing to sample firewater which is running into the River Wear.

"We have received initial results from the laboratory and at present are confident that there is minimal impact on the water quality of the river.

“We are working closely with waste contractors to ensure all waste will be disposed of properly and the necessary permissions are in place in time for removal work.”

Public Health England is continuing to advise residents in areas affected by Deptford fire to follow public health advice.

People living and working near the site should limit the time they spend outside and avoid the smoke.