Fire warnings issued over batteries and Christmas trees

Newcastle city council and the London Fire Brigade have both issued fire warning to residents, urging them to take precautions when disposing of batteries and Christmas trees.

An old mobile phone caused one of the fires at the HWRC

Newcastle city council issued a statement yesterday (6 January) urging residents to dispose of batteries and electrical items properly after two fires broke out on 5 January at its Walbottle household waste and recycling centre (HWRC).

An old mobile phone caused one of the fires at Walbottle HWRC

The Walbottle HWRC was shut on Tuesday after two fires broke out, one of which involved an old mobile phone and vape pen overheating and setting light to paper inside a black bin bag that was in the waste compactor. The cause of the second fire is not yet confirmed as the compactor was sealed to starve the blaze of oxygen.

Cllr John-Paul Stephenson, cabinet member for environment and regulatory services, said: “Thankfully, due to the swift action of our staff, the fires were extinguished, nobody was hurt and there is no lasting damage to the sites, but as we have seen from previous incidents elsewhere in the country this could have been much worse.

“Batteries, chargers, items like old mobile phones or vape pens, and other small devices should not just be placed in general waste and need to be disposed of separately, or they pose a serious fire risk, be that in a bin, bin wagon or – as we see in this case – at our recycling centres.”

Christmas trees

Separately, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) urged Londoners to recycle their Christmas trees and not burn them, after fears a rise in real tree ownership could cause a spate of callouts.

The LFB said it is concerned at the potential spike in fires after the trees dry out. It added that many Christmas trees went up as early as the beginning of November this year.

The LFB warned that dry Christmas trees burn quickly and can cause flames to spread

With over 60% of Christmas tree fires in the last five years occurring outdoors, the LFB is warning people who may be considering burning trees in their gardens to recycle them with their council instead.

The LFB assistant commissioner for fire safety, Paul Jennings, said: “Many will be aware of the dangers associated with faulty Christmas lights and candles being too close to Christmas trees, but you might not have known that a considerable amount of the fires we attend involving Christmas trees are actually caused by people burning them outdoors.

“It might not be as simple as packing up an artificial tree into a box, but there are lots of better ways you can safely recycle your real Christmas tree without the need to burn it”.

London councils

This was backed by mayor Philip Glanville, chair of London Councils’ transport and environment committee, who said: “We can make the festive season even greener by planning to reuse and recycle seasonal waste as much as we can. We would encourage keeping your food waste to a minimum, using recyclable packaging where possible and, researching how best to dispose of your real Christmas tree.

“Many boroughs are offering designated drop-off sites, household waste recycling centres, or collection services for real Christmas trees to be recycled so we can all enjoy a more sustainable Christmas and New Year”.

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