The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) has detailed work it is doing with the waste industry, enforcement agencies and insurers to combat the increasing number of high-profile fires at waste and recycling plants.
The year 2012/2013 witnessed a number of very high profile fires involving the storage and recycling of waste materials, including one in Dagenham, which LFB Commissioner Ron Dobson described as the biggest in London for several years and another in Smethwick that caused an estimated £6 million worth of damage.
However, Environment Agency statistics indicate that “there has been a fall in the total numbers of fires since 2011, but the number of serious and significant fires remains constant at a rate a little above one a month”.
As such, CFOA’s Waste Management round table event on 19th March saw gathered stakeholders from the fire and rescue service, waste management and insurance sectors, regulators, and strategic leaders from Central and Local Government discuss the need to work collaboratively to produce solutions that were appropriate, risk-proportionate, cost-effective and achievable, both for the industry and enforcing authorities.
Investment in substantial fire protection
Delivering his keynote speech at the event, Mark Garnier MP said: "The economics of running a recycling centre appear to incentivise the on-site storage of waste products and whilst there is a cash value to the recycled product, there is also a cost of residual waste going to landfill. Therefore, does this cash flow incentive drive large accumulations of waste and in so doing increase the risk of fire?
"Similarly, if there are limits on how long certain types of waste can be stored at any given centre - is the process of enforcement sufficient to ensure that the time limits are adhered to? And - what is the process of enforcement and is it sufficient across the whole range of measures and licensing?
"So, my appeal is that you add your collective support to the idea that local authorities take responsibility for the delivery of a 'stand easy' response, if appropriate, in what looks to the untrained eye like a major disaster. Secondly, I would ask 'What more needs to be done with regard to fire insurance?' and from that 'What benefits will site operators see from an investment in substantial fire protection and pollution control systems?' alongside 'What changes can be made to ensure that the emergency response plan is based on health and safety requirements, rather than obstructed by issues of cost?'"
Roadmap to reduction of site fires
Following on from the Fire Futures Forum, CFOA has invited partners from the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive, Insurance and Waste Management sectors to form the ‘Waste Management and Recycling Centre Fire Working Group’.
This group will be analysing data on waste and recycling fires, taken from a variety of sources, to identify trends and causal factors. It aims to produce a ‘roadmap’ towards to the reduction of fires at these sites or, where they do occur, to mitigate the severity of their impacts.
Roy Wilsher, Operations Director at CFOA (pictured) added: "We are working with partners and stakeholders across the waste and recycling industry to reduce the number and severity of fires at these sites.
"These serious fires can have a huge impact, not only on the local community and environment, but on the wider economy with road closures and the commitment of significant resources from fire and rescue services and partner agencies."
Two work streams have been set up to look at Prevention, Protection and Response, and an interactive timeline of work outputs will be available for partner agencies to view, detailing progress.