A team of 40 firefighters from all over Wiltshire were called in to fight a huge blaze that sent a massive column of smoke over Devizes.
Some 300 tonnes of waste at the Tinkfield recycling centre at the foot of Monument Hill on the A342 near Devizes caught fire at around 4.30pm on Tuesday and two crews from Devizes fire station were soon on the scene.
They were joined by two fire engines from Trowbridge, one from Melksham, supported by water carriers from Pewsey and Royal Wootton Bassett, an incident command vehicle from Stratton, the aerial appliance (cherry picker) from Swindon and an operational support unit from Salisbury.
Eight members of staff from Wiltshire Waste and Recycling, who operate the eight-acre site, used on-site machinery to create fire breaks, areas cleared of combustible material to prevent the spread of the flames, in the piles of waste, working with firefighters to help contain the blaze to one part of the facility. The rest of the 50-strong workforce was evacuated.
Darren Nixon, station manager at Devizes fire station, said: “We were called to the fire – size unknown – at about 5pm and the initial crews on the scene identified a significant fire in 300 tonnes of waste materials awaiting recycling.
“As well the fire crews, police and ambulance have attended, though no one has been hurt.”
The fire was brought under control by 7pm but it was decided at that time to let it burn safely away from other combustible materials on the site.
Among the material alight was wood, paper, garden waste and plastics.
A significant plume was visible across Devizes for several hours and, following advice from Wiltshire’s public health department, local people were told to keep windows and doors shut as a precaution, though the health warning was soon lifted.
The nearest homes are more than a quarter of a mile away.
Paul Mortimer, the operations manager for the Grist Group, which owns the site, said the cause of the fire was a mystery.
He said: “I can’t understand how it could have started. With all the rain we’ve had recently everything was soaking wet.
“When it started our emergency procedures went into action and we used our machinery to create a fire break.
“The fire service was on the scene very quickly and we are very grateful to them for their assistance.
“We had an emergency management meeting this morning to make sure this can never happen again.”
While fire vehicles manoeuvred on and off the site, police officers and PCSOs managed traffic along the A342. Although there were slight hold-ups, the road remained open.
The Health and Safety Executive has been informed of the incident and a report will be sent to them by both the fire service and Grists.