Rugeley farm fire: Angry residents four miles away now being affected by smoke
Smoke from a blaze that has been burning on a Staffordshire farm for more than two weeks is drifting for miles, with angry residents having to keep their windows and doors shut.
The fire, which took hold in 1,000 tons of waste at Oak Tree Farm on Slitting Mill Road, Rugeley, is now affecting people living as far as four miles away.
Firefighters continue to battle the fire, which started on September 5, as the MET Office released ‘an advisory notice’ to Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, which revealed smoke and toxins could have reached as far south as Hednesford.
Now people living in Cannock have said they can smell the smoke from their homes, with one Old Fallow Road resident saying: “I cannot believe we have to keep our doors and windows shut because of a fire that happened so long ago and so far away. It is horrendous.”
More than 100 people packed out a heated public meeting about the blaze on Monday, with Public Health England reassuring residents there was no long-term risk to public health.
But one resident living near the farm said she was taken to Cannock Hospital two days after the fire started having suffered an asthma attack.
Sam, aged 42, who did not give her surname, said: “I was struggling to breath and work tried to send me home. My doctors was closed so they transferred me to Cannock as an emergency.
“I was told I had had an asthma attack. The last time I had an asthma attack without an infection was when I was a child. The nurse said there had been two in that day because of the smoke.”
Rob Barber, deputy chief fire officer at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said he could not say when the fire would be extinguished.
He added: “These incidents are notoriously difficult to deal with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue has employed as many resources as it can and has hired additional resources including an excavator.
“We are dealing with it but it will go on for some time into the future.”
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Paul Woodhead, who represents Hednesford South on Cannock Chase Council, said he shared residents’ frustration.
He said: “The main anger from people is not what is happening now – they except it has to be put out and the fire service’s tactics – but that it got to this stage in the first place.”
The burning waste is predominantly shredded wood but also includes domestic waste, according to fire chiefs.
Firefighters are now using an additive called F-500 Encapsulator Agent, which reduces the need for water and cools the flames.
They have been unable to use large quantities of water over fears of environmental contamination.
Amanda Milling, Conservative MP for Cannock Chase, said: “In terms of how far reaching the fire has been I can tell you very just by the amount of case work my office has been working through.
“I welcomed the public meeting and I was really pleased it was held as one of the criticisms being levelled was about the level of information being released.
“Rightly residents wanted to pose questions as they are very concerned.
“I visited the site on Monday before the meeting and I was overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge that Staffordshire Fire and Rescue is up against and I would like to thank them as they have been working really hard to deal with it.