A HUGE blaze that has burnt for over a week and a half in Orsett may have been started maliciously, say the owners of the site.
RIO Recycling this week claimed the fire had most likely been “started maliciously” as they promised that no local jobs would be lost when the fire is extinguished and the long clean-up campaign begins.
A statement given to the Thurrock Enquirer on Monday said: “The economic impact on RIO is considerable, but the company will not be reducing headcount in its team of local workers as a result of the incident. Current employees will be retained either to support the clean-up process or to work in other associate operations.
“The cause of the fire, thought to be started maliciously, is under investigation and RIO is working with the Police, Fire and EA teams to assist fully in their enquiries.”
Peter Alexander, Director of RIO, was determined the company would recover from this recent set back saying: “We have been operating at the RIO site for the last three years and have had the wood reprocessing business running very well for the last 18 months. The fire will set us back for a while until we can get the clean-up done, but then we can resume our part in supporting the country’s most advanced renewable energy facility.
“In the meantime, our aggregate, fill materials, sands and soil business will operate as normal. I am very grateful to the emergency services, the Environment Agency and the local authority in Thurrock, and the staff at Dansand Quarry for their professionalism and the support that they are providing to us as we deal with the situation”.
Firefighters from across the county were called to the blaze at Rio Recycling on Stanford Road, Orsett, at 4.14am on Tuesday after reports of 40,000 tonnes of recycled wood chip alight.
Since Tuesday fire crews have had a continual presence at the site. On Wednesday, following discussion with the Environment Agency, fire crews agreed to allow the blaze to “burn itself out in a controlled way” due to the huge amount of wood involved and the lack of threat it poses to local residents.
Divisional Officer Ray Skinner said: “With incidents like this we have to make an assessment about the best way to proceed and in this instance the best option is for us to allow the wood to burn itself out in a controlled fire.”
Parents living locally have been told to keep children away from the site after crews caught kids playing dangerously close to the flames.
A spokesperson for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said: “Crews have had a problem with children sneaking onto the site and there are fears that a child could be badly hurt. So far a number of youngsters have entered the site and have been seen walking in the wood pile.
“Although the wood pile is not visibly alight on the surface, it is very unstable and could collapse at any moment. Firefighters are urging parents to make sure that their children do not enter the site.”
The fire is still well alight deep in a 100 foot quarry where the recycled wood chip is housed. Due to the depth of the quarry firefighters cannot get to the centre of the fire and because of the proximity of local roads, including the A1013, firefighters have chosen to perform a controlled burn.
Divisional Officer Skinner continued: “The fire itself is in a deep quarry which means it is impossible for firefighters to safely reach the seat of the fire which is buried under tonnes of scrap wood. Although we have considered the option of cutting a fire break into the pile, the close proximity of the fire to the quarry walls and the restricted space around the fire means we have been unable to achieve this so far.
“The quarry is around 100 feet deep and completely full of wood. It is difficult to estimate exactly how much but we are in all likelihood looking at tens of thousands of tonnes of waste wood involved in this fire.
“The wood itself appears to be clean and is not as yet burning pollutants into the atmosphere although we will keep this under constant review in conjunction with our colleagues from the Environment Agency..
“We will have crews present at the site throughout the controlled burn to make sure that the fire poses no risk of spreading.
“At this stage we anticipate being at the scene of the incident for several days yet to come.”