Rugeley farm blaze: £110,000 goes up in smoke to pay towards tackling fire

A fire which burned for months and shrouded much of Cannock Chase in smoke cost more than £110,000 to tackle.

Firefighters tackle the blaze at its height

Firefighters tackle the blaze at its height

The waste fire at Oak Tree Farm on Slitting Mill Road in Rugeley started on September 5, 2016.

Smoke and toxins from the blaze stretched as far as Hednesford, about four miles from the farm, and residents were forced to keep their windows and doors closed due to the smell of smoke.

Staffordshire firefighters spent more than 340 hours there and costs for simply attending spiralled to at least £103,221.

The service also hired a digger from JCB for 21 days to move rubbish in an effort to stop the fire at a cost of £10,500.

The fire took hold of up to 1,000 tonnes of waste.

Investigators concluded last year that the fire was ‘most likely’ deliberate.

It was not caused by self-heating or accidentally started, they said.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service pulled in help from senior West Midlands Fire Service officers in their effort.

Initially they found most of the burning material was wood but that it had been piled on top of domestic waste including plastics, fabric and soil.

Asbestos was then discovered over two weeks after it had started, on September 20.

Further digging uncovered propane gas cylinders in the stack.

In November, Staffordshire County Council served a High Court injunction on the operators Dennis Ward and Steven Reeves-Morgan.

Staffordshire County Council’s environment leader Gill Heath said at the time: “We’re pleased to have been able to take positive action against two people who have been operating this unlawful site.”

The order means they must not bring, recycle, burn or disturb any waste at the site. Further action is expected later.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that Staffordshire fire crews spent a total of 348 hours and 17 minutes at the site.

Rugeley firefighters spent 142 hours and 19 minutes there, while others from Cannock were on site for a total of 99 hours and 57 minutes.

Cannock Chase MP Amanda Milling said: “It think it is appalling that Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has had to spend so much of its funding to tackle the fire at Slitting Mill.”

Other help was called in from firefighters based at nine other stations. Some came from as far away as Stoke, about 20 miles away.

Help was required from Abbots Bromley, Chase Terrace, Longton, Barton under Needwood, Penkridge, Stafford, Stone and Burton upon Trent.

A crew from the service’s headquarters also attended for 12 hours and 54 minutes.

In addition three officers from West Midlands Fire Service spent 12 hours each directing the effort.

While Staffordshire Fire Service said they would not give a figure for the total cost of dealing with the fire, it said one hour spent at a blaze costs £296.40.

At the time, more than 100 residents packed into a public meeting in Rugeley over the impact and control of the fire.