Worksop: Firefighter tells of ‘treacherous’ conditions - but recycling blaze is almost out

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Worksop will breath a sigh of relief this weekend as a long smouldering fire at a recycling centre is finally conquered.

Saturday marks four weeks to the day since a blaze tore through a building full of waste material at Nottinghamshire Recycling Ltd.

It took days to put out. Then on Wednesday 21st August fire crews were called back to the Shireoaks Road site where a second, separate fire had ignited.

Smoke has filled the air around Worksop for weeks with residents advised to keep windows and doors closed.

And as concerns over what health impact, if any, the smoke might have on the public grew, some criticism was aimed at the fire service.

But as the whole episode draws to a close, one senior firefighter has spoken out about the challenges he and his men have faced every day since the blaze began.

“By Saturday hopefully it should be out. We’ve got diggers working to separate all the waste and we’ve got a massive fire-break in there to split it all up,” he told the Guardian.

He said that people will already have noticed that the smoke and smog have gone.

“We’ve set up monitor jets which are putting copious amounts of water on it over night.”

“But there is no way just putting water on it would have been effective.”

“The lads in the fire service and the people from Nottinghamshire Recycling have worked tirelessly through the night with diggers to get at the heart of the fire. Without that it would still be burning for a long time to come.”

The watch manager, who works at Worksop Fire Station, did not wish to be named.

He said: “People think we have just been doing nothing. They couldn’t be more wrong.”

“Worksop crews have been there every day, taking turns to do shifts and other stations have been helping out too.”

“It’s smelly, horrible work - really, really wet. I went through two pairs of boots in a day they were so soggy. And I’ve lost eight pounds in the space of a week.”

“We’re exhausted and looking forward to coming away and getting back to a normal routine at the fire station.”

The watch manager said the fact that the recycling centre was situated next to the Chesterfield Canal had been a blessing.

“Last week in one night we put 300,000 litres of water on it from the canal,” he said.

“Without that canal being so close who knows how long the fire would have kept going.”

“People have no idea how deep seated and how big a job it has been. There’s a lot of wood, soil and chippings among the waste which is all biodegradable and generates its own heat.”

“All it needs is a pocket of oxygen to get into the slightest gap while it’s all composting and compacting, and it self-ignites.”

“A fire like that can be burning underground for months and you might not know about it.”

He described the scale of the job and the size of the site they had been working on.

“It’s about the size of four football pitches,” he said.

“It has been a difficult challenge. We have been working in treacherous conditions under foot.”

“It’s been difficult from a safety perspective moving around the site and shifting heavy vehicles around.”

“We have had to get heavy plant machinery in and dig a canal eight metres deep and three metres wide around the area of waste that held the deep seated fire.”

“We’ve effectively created an island in order to separate the fire area from the rest of the waste and stop it spreading.”

And although it may seem too much of a coincidence, he confirmed that the first and second fires were completely separate.

He explained that the first fire, which started on Saturday 3rd August, involved a large amount of household waste stored inside a building.

Again the waste had to be pulled apart so that firefighters could tackle the deep seated blaze.

The second fire was in the centre’s large yard. They are not thought to be linked, but the causes remain under investigation.

Finally, the watch manager said: “There will be a in depth debriefing after this is all over to see how we can prevent something like this happening again.”