By Chris Young LDRS
The tyre fire in Bradford last month led to similar sites across West Yorkshire being inspected, and highlighted the danger of such sites to fire services across the country.
West Yorkshire Fire Authority held its first meeting since the blaze at Upper Castle Street last month. The incident involved a former go-karting site where over 600,000 tyres were being stored.
The blaze began in the early morning on 16 November, and the fire service did not declare the incident fully closed until 5 December.
Over 100 firefighters dealt with the incident along with police, Bradford Council and the Environment Agency.
Ben Bush, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service commander for the Bradford district, gave a presentation on the incident to members of the Authority – which is made up of members of all five West Yorkshire Councils.
He said: “At its height, we had 15 fire engines and 100 firefighters dealing with this incident. We also used a high volume pump, which is capable of pumping 7,000 litres of water a minute.”
Members heard that due to the huge amounts of water needed to tackle the fire, nearby Kemira Chemicals offered the use of its reservoir. Bradford Council also provided plant machinery to help move tyres so fire fighters could reach the source of fire outbreaks.
He told members how the incident produced a “plume of thick, black toxic smoke” that led to the closure of 20 schools, businesses and the cancellation of trains. Both Bradford Crown Court and West Yorkshire Police’s Trafalgar House Police Station had to be evacuated at the height of the fire.
The Environment Agency had been made aware of reports of illegal storage of tyres at the site in June and began an investigation that is still ongoing. Mr Bush said fire crews had also been to the site with the Environment Agency in July, and offered advice to the operators on how to safely store tyres while the investigation continued. He said: “We knew the tyres wouldn’t go away overnight.”
Mr Bush added: “Work is also ongoing to identify other sites across West Yorkshire that could pose a similar threat.”
He praised the people of Bradford for their response to the fire, saying: “We had a great response from the public and local businesses. We know that they have already been through so much this year, and the patience and understanding of the community was amazing. Crews told me about the public and businesses bringing them food – they really appreciated that.”
He was asked if there was likely to be any long term effects on the health of the firefighters dealing with the fire. He replied “PPE for firefighters has improved over the last few years. But it goes without saying that we always keep an eye on the health of our firefighters.”
He said the incident highlighted the risk of fires at such sites not just in West Yorkshire but across the country.
Mr Bush added said a handful of similar sites in Bradford had been identified, but said: “They are nothing on the scale of this site. We’ve been providing extra guidance on safely stacking tyres. I suppose this incident has brought the issue way up the agenda.”
Two people have been arrested on suspicion of arson in relation to the fire, and that investigations is still ongoing.