16 November 2017 by Steve Eminton

Wood recyclers angry over Agency stance on fire template

Wood recyclers have voiced their concerns at a decision by the Environment Agency to reject parts of its proposed waste wood fire prevention plan (FPP) template.


Andy Hill, chair of the Wood Recyclers Association expressed his concern at the Agency’s reaction to its proposals

Speaking at the conference on Fire prevention and control in the waste and recycling industry yesterday in London, Andy Hill, chair of the Wood Recyclers Association declared: “We have put six months work in and the Agency last week put a line through large tranches of this. You can imagine we are not best pleased at the moment.”

The conference also heard from the Environment Agency and from Chris Jones, chairman of the WISH forum on fire guidance and trials with a report that recent tests had found ways to more quickly control waste fires (see letsrecycle.com story).

Waste Wood FPP

The Wood Recyclers Association has been working on a waste wood FPP and had been expecting a positive input from the Agency. This included work on storage definition and pile sizes for different wood fraction sizes so that a model could be produced for wood recycling firms to use in their fire prevention calculations.

But, Mr Hill commented that in the wake of the meeting, “I don’t think we have moved on much from last year”.

He warned that with the UK wood market set for transformation with new biomass facilities coming on stream, “If we don’t get a grip on FPP and wood it will have a major impact on the biomass sector.”

And, he questioned whether the Environment Agency should have its role on FPPs. “We are engaged with the fire service and they are the experts around fire. Our impression is that the EA have ploughed on regardless and not listened to the fire service and reality.

“Would like to get local level where non-standard FPPs are practical, pragmatic and commercially viable. And as we get more knowledge the FPP can be updated.”


Speaking for the Environment Agency, Mike Smith, senior advisor and team leader, emphasised that he was listening closely to the concerns raised and that he would be discussing them with Agency colleagues.

But, he emphasised that the Agency was fulfilling its “statutory role to protect human health from fires”. And, he noted that the Agency had received a direct instruction from government that it was to no longer produce best practice policies but this has to be led by industry.


A six metre gap between piles is ‘classic’ in terms of fire prevention, the Agency said

Earlier Mr Smith had told the audience that the Agency has built “some flexibility into FPPs”.

“The six metre separation distance between piles is classic. It is fine to vary it if it can be evidenced but these are generics. The six metre gap allows for about 35 minutes radiation flux [time which the fire will spread across the gap] and to allow the fire service to get between the piles.”

If alternatives were suggested, industry might have to show it had equipment on site, quarantine areas and other factors. And, Mr Smith added: “Perhaps separation distances may need to be larger if you are not there 24 hours a day but the quarantine area might be smaller.”


Mandy Langstaff, waste advisor for Natural Resources Wales, said that NRW in Wales was leading on FPPs “because it is fundamentally down to legislation … We are the regulators for the environment, which includes preventing pollution and harm to human health. The waste sector is permitted by us, permitted to prevent pollution from their sites.”


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