Huge fire at Guernsey Recycling site was ‘avoidable’


Guernsey fire

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Martin Grey

A huge fire probably started by a battery being crushed by a mechanical claw was “avoidable”, a report found.

The blaze in the Guernsey Recycling site off Bulwer Avenue on 3 August took 13 hours to put out.

Eighteen off-duty firefighters and a crew of four from the airport fire service supported the on-shift crews.

A report from the chief fire officer found 14 areas for improvements including stopping “hazardous waste” being taken to the site.

Jon Le Page also made recommendations about communications with the public and ensuring firefighters are able to take breaks.

The States of Guernsey failed to remove lithium batteries from materials delivered to the site run by Guernsey Recycling.

Mr Le Page said the problems with disposing batteries were not unique to the island, and that more education on the dangers were needed.

The blaze – which pushed the fire service “to its limits” – was discovered when staff started to sort through the material.

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Scrap cars, plastic materials and other recycled goods were consumed by the fire

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The fire was discovered an hour after the material had been delivered to the site

At its height, 23 firefighters were at the blaze including a crew of four from the Airport Fire and Rescue Service.

Concerns were raised by conflicting information being released about the possible health impacts of the smoke.

Mr Le Page said: “This factually incorrect and uncoordinated media release created increased public concern and there were calls for more explanation.”

Tobin Cook, director of environmental health and pollution regulation, said: “The fire was avoidable… it is imperative that lessons are learned as a result of the incident.”

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Eighteen off-duty firefighters were called in from rest days to attend the fire or cover other incidents

Mr Le Page added: “Nothing can or should detract from what was a highly successful operation to extinguish a major fire in challenging circumstances.

“I am extremely proud of each and every one of the firefighters, and extend my thanks once again to all those who contributed to the operation.”

Some of the recommendations have already been acted on, including a revised Waste Management Licence issued for the site in November.

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Staff tried to tackle the fire before calling in the emergency services

The report’s recommendations:

  • The States of Guernsey and Guernsey Recycling look at how to ensure all hazardous material is removed before waste is processed.
  • Improvements to the site’s quarantine area to ensure fires can be dealt with without fear of fire spreading
  • Annual fire training for staff.
  • Using the example of the fire to create training simulation for Joint Emergency Services Control Centre operators to develop experience of major incidents.

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