10 April 2019 by Will Date

West Sussex HWRC fire extinguished

A fire at a household waste recycling centre (HWRC) in West Sussex, which burned for several days, has been extinguished.

The fire at the Viridor-run HWRC site at Westhampnett, which was believed to involve over 500 tonnes of household waste, was extinguished yesterday afternoon (April 9), having burned since Tuesday 2 April (see letsrecycle.com story).

The fire at the Westhampnett HWRC has been put out

According to West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, crews were unable to extinguish the flames initially due to concerns about safety in accessing the building and the potential effect on aquatic ecosystems of contaminated water running off to Westhampnett Lake.

Jon Lacey, West Sussex Fire & Rescue service area manager for risk and improvements, said: “The fire was difficult to tackle as household waste is a mix of materials some of which, such as paper and plastic, are highly flammable. Some materials retain heat and cause the affected area to continue to burn even after water is applied. We were presented with a number of challenges, including the large amount of smoke within the building and the potential impact on the local environment.

“After consulting with a national fire service advisor on waste fires, we worked to ventilate the building to help reduce the amount of smoke in the building, and improve conditions to enable crews to gain entry. With the assistance of our colleagues at Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service, we then used specialist equipment to extract the burning waste and successfully extinguish in a controlled area.

“I would like to thank everyone involved in this complex operation, and thank you to local residents who have been so patient throughout this process.”

Cause

The cause of the fire has not been identified, but Viridor said it believed that it may have been triggered by a lithium ion battery.

The site remains closed but the council is seeking to reopen the facility, which also houses a waste transfer station, shortly.

Steve Read, director of environment and public protection at West Sussex county council, said: “We are sorry for the disruption this fire has caused to local residents and businesses and I want to personally thank everyone who has been affected by this for their patience and understanding. I’d also like to thank colleagues from Viridor, Chichester District Council, The Environment Agency and Public Health England, all of whom gave advice and were closely consulted throughout.

“Fortunately a fire such as this is a very rare occurrence. It was a very challenging situation and above all we are grateful to West Sussex and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Services for expert advice and intervention.

“The site remains closed while we look at ways to restore a minimum service at as soon as possible. We hope to have some services back up and running in the near future and would ask people to avoid going to alternative sites if they possibly can.”

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