Days on and 400-ton woodchip blaze continues to burn

An MP is demanding a fire that has been left to burn since it started last week is put out.

Firefighters remain on the scene in Slitting Mill Road where woodchips continue to burn. Photo: Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service

Firefighters remain on the scene in Slitting Mill Road where woodchips continue to burn. Photo: Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service

Cannock Chase’s Amanda Milling said it is ‘unacceptable’ that people living nearby have been affected by the 400-ton woodchip blaze, which has spread dense smog across the district.

Fire crews have monitored the fire at Oak Tree Farm in Slitting Mill Road, Rugeley, daily since they were called out at 5.50pm on September 5.

Earlier this week, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service bosses said they would try to put the blaze out by covering it with soil and today described the blaze as ‘unusually challenging’.

A panorama of the fire taken by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service

A panorama of the fire taken by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service

The fire service, Environment Agency and Cannock Chase and Staffordshire council officials met yesterday to discuss what to do next, while Miss Milling will meet representatives from the agency and fire service tomorrow.

She said: “It is quite unacceptable for the fire to be burning for a week now.

I visited the area on two occasions last week and again over the weekend to assess the situation first-hand. I could see for myself the extent of the smoke and how it is affecting residents in the area.

“I contacted Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service last week who informed me that they did not believe they can safely extinguish the fire. In their opinion, the nature of the waste burning could cause a worse environmental hazard if water is used to extinguish it.”

She added: “However, the smoke from the fire has continued to cause considerable nuisance over the weekend to local residents so yesterday I re-contacted Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service to press for the need to address the situation speedily.”

Steve Edkins, whose house on Wells Close in Rugeley is only separated by fields from the fire site, said: “The whole thing is an absolute disgrace.

“You’d think it was plastic and rubber that was smouldering away.”

A Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman today said public wellbeing was the main priority for firefighters.

“As such we must contain the fire from being a threat to public safety and spreading to other areas which may threaten that safety,” the spokesman added.

“With regards to extinguishing the fire, the methods are limited and each has its own potential hazards which must be taken into consideration including the effect it can have on the environment and on local residents as well as a number of other major factors.

“At this time all three agencies are resolving the best and above all, safest options available in an unusually challenging situation; we are aware of the residents’ concerns and frustration but can assure the public we are doing our utmost to resolve the situation as soon as possible.”