BBQ caused ‘major’ fire at Smurfit Kappa’s Nechells plant

Coals from a disposable barbecue started a “huge” fire at Smurfit Kappa’s paper mill in Birmingham las month, an investigation by West Midlands Fire Service shows.

The fire at the plant on Mount Street in Nechells, which involved 8,000 tonnes of cardboard, broke out on 12 June and was declared a “major incident” by the fire service (see letsrecycle.com story).

The fire took hold in a skip marked ‘NO FIRES’ just a few metres away from Smurfit Kappa’s site, the fire service says (picture: WMFS)

Thirty fire engines, 110 fire fighters and other specialist resources tackled the blaze at its height, before it was finally brought under control nearly a week later.

CCTV imagery released by West Midlands Fire Service on 13 July shows the fire taking hold in a skip, marked ‘NO FIRES’. It quickly spread to the Smurfit Kappa paper site, which was just a few metres away.

West Midlands Fire Service says it has liaised closely with West Midlands Police and was “satisfied” that the fire was started unintentionally.

The unnamed person who dumped the foil barbecue tray was tracked down. They believed the charcoal in the barbecue had “cooled enough not to be a fire risk”, the fire service says.

With the Met Office having issued a ‘red’ extreme heat warning for today (18 July) and tomorrow, the fire service is calling on everyone who uses barbecues to dispose of them “responsibly”.

‘Catastrophic consequences’

Area commander Sam Burton, who was West Midlands Fire Service’s incident commander on 12 June, said: “Our crews responded quickly and did an outstanding job. They worked in challenging circumstances throughout the following week.

This incident is a stark reminder about the potential dangers of barbecues
– Area commander Sam Burton, West Midlands Fire Service

“Our investigators are satisfied that the Smurfit Kappa fire started accidentally. Nonetheless, in spite of our firefighters’ determined efforts, the consequences were catastrophic.

“This incident is a stark reminder about the potential dangers of barbecues. They should never be left unattended and never disposed of until they’re totally cold.”

Smurfit Kappa declined to comment when contacted by letsrecycle.com.


Smurfit Kappa operates two paper mills in the UK: one in Nechells, Birmingham, and another in Snodland, Kent.

The Nechells site also suffered a large-scale fire in 2013, which saw 70 firefighters tackle a blaze involving thousands of tonnes of recovered cardboard material (see letsrecycle.com story).

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