A huge blaze has ripped through a controversial tip in Huddersfield — and could burn for FIVE DAYS.
The massive inferno started at the former Hunter Group tip in Queens Mill Road, Lockwood, just days after residents agan aired concerns that the tip had been abandoned.
And the fear that the blaze may reach oil drums and the effects of breathing in toxic smoke led to police to evacuate nearby businesses including the Star Inn on Albert Street.
Shortly after 5.30pm yesterday huge plumes of black smoke could be seen rising from the tip and within minutes it could be seen from as far away as Golcar and Ainley Top.
Within minutes, Claire Robertson-Dwyer, of Wood Terrace in Primrose Hill, said: “The whole place is on fire and we can hear things exploding.
“You just don’t know what’s in that place – some of the waste has been there for years. There may be an awful lot of chemical rubbish in there – we have seen blue bags of chemical waste being taken onto the site.
“The fire is raging and it’s a very dangerous situation. It’s so hot no-one can go anywhere near it.”
She also voiced fears about what could be in the smoke and that the run-off from water used to tackle the blaze could badly pollute the nearby river.
“This has all been caused by neglect,” said Claire. “And once the fire is out the fire service will be here for ages damping down. Just think of the cost of all this to the taxpayers.”
Ray Wilson described how he saw flames shoot 50ft into the air when the blaze started.
Ray, 68, said: “The flames were just jumping up in the air. You could see them over the treetops. There was pitch black smoke like it was rubber burning.”
Five fire engines are at the scene pouring water onto the flames. The crews are from Huddersfield, Slaithwaite, Rastrick and Meltham.
Fire crews are expecting it will burn for up to five days.
Kirklees District Commander Andy Farrell said: “This will take a significant amount of water to put out this fire and we have had to call in specialist equipment from across West Yorkshire.
“The fire is likely to burn for three to five days and we are going to be here for some considerable amount of time. Hopefully the smoke plume will start to die but there is still a chance it could flare up again. We don’t know what is in there and every smoke plume is toxic and the smoke spreading is a concern.
“The ambulance service are on the scene and they have taken advice from Public Health England and residents have been advised to keep their windows closed. It is going to take a mult-agency response and that means the full support of Kirklees Council and the Environment Agency.”
They fire crews had been visiting the site over the last couple after small outbreaks of fire.
Commander Farrell added: “It’s not clear what has caused this blaze but there is organic decomposing waste and spontaneous combustion cannot be ruled out.”
The immediate priority was to stop to the fire spreadng to neighboiuring firm Nova Glaze Gardner and Newton Ltd.
Just after 6pm the Star Inn was evacuated on Albert Street and the drinkers were standing in the street finishing their pints. Tearful landlady Sam Watts has been told it’s unlikely she won’t be allowed back tonight.
She said: “It’s just been ridiculous. It’s just been going on so long now something should have been done.”
Resident Adam Fazakerley, 22, said: “It’s just been going on for too long. Residents want the authorities to take action.”
The tip appears to have been abandoned, leaving local people furious.
Ownership of the site was said to have changed and the Environment Agency was working with the new owner to tackle the hundreds of tonnes of waste dumped there.
But now the tip has been left locked up for weeks and residents have repeatedly complained about foul smells, swarms of flies and rats.
Days ago Claire had spoken out about the perceived lack of action, saying: “The process of dealing with it is incredibly slow and long-winded. Any amount of complaining from Joe Public doesn’t seem to have made a difference.”
Last month the rotting rubbish heap caught fire and was smouldering deep inside for several days.
Firefighters from Huddersfield spent days at the site damping down to ensure a full-scale blaze didn’t erupt.
The Lockwood site was previously believed to have been owned by Hunter Group, run by Sam Hunter. The Environment Agency has said ownership has changed but has not said who is now responsible, though say they are in talks with “the owner of Sam H Services.”
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said last week: “We are continuing to investigate the waste site known as Hunter’s in Huddersfield. The site has been secured while the operation is inactive. However, we are in contact with the owner of Sam H Services and the landowner regarding their environmental responsibilities and the future management of the waste on the site.
“We are also continuing our investigations into the activities of the previous permit holder.”