The Chief Fire Officers Association and London Fire Brigade have announced they are to undertake a series of waste fire tests alongside the Waste Industry Safety Forum (WISH), Wood Recycling Association, Environment Agency (EA) and Environment Services Association.
The aim of the tests is to provide up to date scientific data about the flammable properties of modern materials which are in the recycling system and stored on waste recycling sites. With the ever changing nature of wastes and methods of handling these materials, it is important to update our knowledge of how these materials burn and how best to extinguish the fires.
CFOA’s figures show the overall trend of waste fires over the last 10 years has remained consistent at around 250 incidents per year, more recently there have seen a number of large scale protracted incidents that have caused significant disruption to the fire service and local community. The cost to fire and rescue services is estimated to be in the region of £16 million a year.
CFOA Lead for Waste and Recycling Fires Mark Andrews said: "These tests are ground breaking for both the fire and waste industry, by establishing this scientific data we will influence future fire safety guidance with a view to preventing these fires occurring in the first place.
"The tests are also an opportunity to test both traditional and contemporary firefighting techniques to assess what methods are the most effective in order to influence future operational guidance. Our closer working partnership with the Environment Agency and waste sector will ensure we will minimise the negative impact of these events on the surrounding environment and communities if and when they do occur."
The new information will provide updated guidance on stack sizes and separation distances for the industry with the aim of reducing the spread and severity of these fires. The results of the tests will also help the Environment Agency in deciding whether or not to make changes to its permits for waste sites, with the aim of reducing the incidence of fires at these premises.
Firefighting tests will also take place which will develop smarter and improved tactics for fire services when responding to waste fires. Using modern firefighting techniques will ensure a more rapid knock down of the fire, prevent pollution and reduce the overall impact of the incident on the wider community.
CFOA and the Environment Agency have recently agreed a National Memorandum of Understanding. This sets out how they will work better together and collaborate when addressing incidents which impact both fire and rescue services and the environment. Operational annexes produced as part of the document include; pollution incident prevention and mitigation and preventing waste and industry site fires.
CFOA’s Director of Operations Roy Wilsher (pictured) added: "After some exceptional collaborative working between CFOA, the EA and partners within the waste sector, and following the agreement of a National Memorandum of Understanding, I am pleased to announce CFOA’s involvement within the waste fire testing programme.
"The excellent working relationship between CFOA and the EA reinforces the benefits of partnership working and the results of these tests will lead to significant development in the way in which Fire and Rescue Services and the EA plan for and respond to waste fires.”