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Electra Road blaze: Derry waste site fire will take days to control, warns fire service

Published 13/11/2015

The scene of the fire at the Brickkiln recycling plant outside Derry. Picture Martin McKeown.
The scene of the fire at the Brickkiln recycling plant outside Derry. Picture Martin McKeown.

A fire at a waste management site on the outskirts of Londonderry containing thousands of tonnes of household waste will take days to extinguish, according to the Fire Service.

Efforts by 45 firefighters at the Brickkiln site on Electra Road are being hampered by the compact nature of the waste which is expected to keep the Fire Service at the scene for several days.

The scene of the fire at the Brickkiln recycling plant outside Derry. Picture Martin McKeown.
The scene of the fire at the Brickkiln recycling plant outside Derry. Picture Martin McKeown.

The fire broke out shortly after 8.30am on Wednesday at the building containing waste which has been untreated for months since the Brickkiln Waste Company went into administration.

Firefighters from across the North West tackled the inferno.

Rats, which had been the subject of a recent infestation probe at the building, could be seen fleeing over a neighbouring field.

Black plumes of smoke which rose up through the towering electric pylons in billowing clouds dominated the skies and could be seen from miles away well into the afternoon.

A Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service spokesperson said: "Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS)  firefighting operation at Brickkiln Enviroparc, Electra Road, Maydown, Londonderry is continuing.

"Since Wednesday the fire has continued to burn out to such an extent now that it is now safe for the demolition of the building to commence.  Demolition has begun on site today by contractors who are removing the roof and external panels of the building. 

"This will give Firefighters better access to the seat of the fire to continue to extinguish the fire. The Maydown Road has been closed and traffic management is being directed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service. Motorists are advised to avoid the area as the operation is likely to continue into the weekend.

"Although the smoke plume from the fire has decreased in size, NIFRS continues to advise householders and premises in the area to keep windows and doors closed.  Windy conditions remain on the weather forecast and people need to be vigilant to a change in wind direction, keeping windows and doors closed.

"NIFRS has 11 Fire Appliances currently on site including 2 High Volume Pumps, 1 Aerial Appliance and the Command Support Unit.

"NIFRS are working closely with the site owners, NI Environment Agency, Police Service of Northern Ireland, Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland Electricity and Derry City & Strabane District Council in the ongoing management of this incident. Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service continues to thank the local community in the area for their understanding as Firefighters deal with this incident.

“The cause of the fire remains under investigation.”

Heading the fight to bring the blaze under control, Assistant Group Commander Mark Smyth said it will be later this week before the exact cause is known.

He said: “At breakfast time we were alerted to a fire in the building, which is a large industrial domestic waste premises.

“Inside the building there are large quantities of packing paper, industrial waste and domestic waste in extremely large quantities, we are talking around hundreds if not thousands of tonnes of waste.

The fire broke out on Wednesday morning. @CoDerryAirport
The fire broke out on Wednesday morning. @CoDerryAirport

“Due to the intensity of the fire, the nature of the building and material inside it this is going to be a protracted incident.

“The building is approximately 50m x 30m and contained bales of recycleable domestic rubbish.

“Due to the compact nature of how the bales were stacked within the building, the water is running off the surface of the bales and is not currently reaching the seat of the fire within the building.

“It is not safe to commit firefighters to enter the building as it is structurally unsafe.

“There is no hazardous or toxic waste as such, but windy conditions are forecast for the next 24 hours and people need to be vigilant to a change in wind direction and keep windows and doors closed.

“We are working closely with the site owners, NI Environment Agency, Public Health Agency and Derry City & Strabane District Council in the ongoing management of this incident.”

It is the second extensive fire this year at a site belonging to Brickkiln.

A large fire which broke out at the Brickkiln site on Heather Road near Campsie in July needed 50 firefighters to bring it under control.

The Environment Minister Mark H Durkan was at the scene for a large part of the morning and witnessed the extent of the blaze for himself.

He said: “Since Brickkiln went into administration a few months ago, there have been issues emanating from this site given that there was still waste at the site.

“My officials from NIEA have been working with the Environmental Health team from Derry and Strabane Council to control that as best they could, however no-one could have foreseen or anticipated this kind of incident.”

Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said lessons must be learnt from this blaze before other waste storage plants in Northern Ireland suffer a similar fate.

He explained: “I have very recently raised concerns about this site in the Assembly after I was made aware of the huge amount of waste that was abandoned there when the company went into administration.

“Unfortunately, what happened here could very well happen at a number of other similar sites across Northern Ireland, so we must take action now and learn from this incident before it is repeated somewhere else.”

In July this year, 50 workers employed by Brickkiln Waste Limited lost their jobs when the company went into administration a short time after the Northern Ireland Environment Agency temporarily suspended its licence because of breaches at its plant in Maydown.

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