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Slitting Mill fire can FINALLY be extinguished after burning for 16 months

By Carl Jackson | Rugeley | News | Published:

A huge fire that has been burning at a farm for more than a year can finally be ‘extinguished safely’, it has been revealed.

Firefighters have been regularly posted at Slitting Mill in the last 18 months.

The stack of 1,000 tonnes of waste at Slitting Mill, which burst into flames on September 5, 2016, can now be fully extinguished, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has said.

Cannock Chase MP Amanda Milling said the blaze is one of the longest-running she has known – and welcomed the fact that an end to the ‘saga’ was now in sight.

She has been contacted by residents about the fire on a regular basis and has called for action.

More on the Slitting Mill fire:

While officials from Cannock Chase and Staffordshire councils along with the Environment Agency have been monitoring the situation.

A fire service spokeswoman said: “The waste fire at Oak Tree Farm, Slitting Mill, near Rugeley, has been assessed by officers from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Environment Agency.

“The fire, which has been alight since September 2016, has now burned away sufficient wood waste to leave an amount that can be safely extinguished.

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“The overriding issue on this site is the presence of a drinking water aquifer underground."

Contamination

She continued: “The application of very large volumes of water, that would have been required to extinguish the amount of waste on fire in 2016, risked contamination of the water course and so the decision was made to cap the fire to allow the combustion to continue whilst minimising the emission of smoke that was a nuisance to local residents.

“The amount of fresh water that will need to be used to extinguish the remaining fire will not now present a risk to the aquifer.”

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The flames still roared in the immediate aftermath of the initial blaze.

The fire service was not able to say exactly when it would be put out for good but added: “Firefighters are expected to be on scene for one day and will use metal lances to inject water into the heart of the stacks to put out the fires and cool the remaining waste.

“The stacks will then be monitored for a short period using thermal imaging cameras to ensure that the application of water has extinguished the pockets of remaining fire.

“When we are confident the fire has been fully extinguished the responsibility for

the site will return to the occupier of the land.”

Major distress

Amanda Milling, who has been closely monitoring developments at Slitting Mill, welcomed the news.

She said: “I am very pleased that, after 18 months, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue are now able to finally extinguish the fire. The fire has caused major distress for local residents who had to suffer weeks of lingering smoke.

“Tackling and controlling the fire, then managing the stack, has also been a real drain on the fire service’s resources, so I am pleased that they are now in the position where they can apply water to the waste via the gaps in the cap – and that this long-running saga will soon be coming to an end.

“It is fair to say that this must be one of the longest-running fires that has burned in this area.

“Residents can be reassured that once this waste is removed from the site, new waste cannot return to the site, as has been the case in the past, because the site is subject to High Court Injunctions prohibiting this.”

Smoke stretched as far as Hednesford, about four miles from the farm, while firefighters spent more than 340 hours there and costs for simply attending spiralled.

The service also hired a digger from

JCB to move rubbish in an effort to stop the flames spreading.

Carl Jackson

By Carl Jackson
@CarlJackson_LDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Birmingham City Council.

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