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Slitting Mill fire finally out

A waste fire at a farm near Rugeley has finally been put out after burning for a year and a half.

Firefighters were first called to the waste fire at Oak Tree Farm, Slitting Mill near Rugeley, at around 5.50pm on Monday September 5 2016. Over the following weeks and months Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) worked with partner agencies, including Cannock Chase Council, Staffordshire County Council, the Environment Agency and Public Health England, to minimise the impact to local residents and ensure both public, environmental and firefighter safety.

Very large volumes of water would have been required to extinguish the amount of waste on fire in 2016. To protect important groundwater resources that supply drinking water, a multi-agency decision was made to cap the fire to allow the combustion to continue whilst reducing the emission of smoke that was a nuisance to local residents.

Fire crews from Rugeley and Cannock continued to revisit the site throughout 2016 and 2017, attending in excess of 80 times. Additionally more than £70,000 was spent on hiring specialist equipment which was needed to move the earth required to cap the fire.

Finally, in January 2018 a joint assessment by officers from SFRS and the Environment Agency confirmed the fire had burnt away sufficient wood waste to leave an amount that could be safely extinguished. Firefighters used metal lances to inject water into the heart of the stacks to put out the fires and cool the remaining waste.

Over following weeks fire crews continued to visit the site to monitor the stacks using thermal imaging cameras to ensure that all pockets of remaining fire were extinguished.

Tim Hyde, Director of Response, said: “I would like to reiterate that our priority throughout this particularly complex incident has been to extinguish the fire in the most efficient and effective way, ensuring the safety of local communities. We would like to thank local residents for their patience and understanding while we have dealt with this lengthy drawn out incident.

“We are now confident the fire has been fully extinguished. Firefighting activity at the site has now finished and the responsibility for the site has been returned to the occupier of the land.”

A high court injunction order is in place against the site owner and operator of Oak Tree Farm, prohibiting them from importing or processing material there and requiring the removal of the unauthorised waste.

Staffordshire County Council’s Communities lead County Councillor Gill Heath said:  “Even though the fire at Oak Tree Farm has now been extinguished, our work at the site still continues.  We will continue to monitor the site to ensure the landowner and site operator comply with the conditions of the injunction served on them last year, and that the site is cleared of all unauthorised waste as soon as possible. This may involve making further application to the High Court if the Injunction is not complied with.”

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