Wood chip blaze is to blame for foul smell

A FIRE at a recycling facility near Brampton has been causing a foul stench and smoke to waft across parts of Huntingdonshire… for two weeks. The smoke has been most prevalent in Brampton but the smell has been getting up nostrils as far away as Alconbury

A FIRE at a recycling facility near Brampton has been causing a foul stench and smoke to waft across parts of Huntingdonshire... for two weeks.

The smoke has been most prevalent in Brampton but the smell has been getting up nostrils as far away as Alconbury, Huntingdon and St Ives, and there is little the fire service can do but let it burn out.

Yesterday (Tuesday), smoke could still be seen rising from Huntingdon Recycling where a large stockpile of rotting wood chippings is on fire.

Managers of the centre, who have apologised for the smoke and smell created by the blaze, believe the wood chippings spontaneously combusted because of a rare combination of gases.


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Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service said it hoped the fire will finally be out by the end of the week, while environmental officials have insisted there are no health risks associated with the smoke.

The fire at Huntingdon Recycling, just off the A14 at Ellington, was discovered on November 19 and a plume of smoke has been choking parts of the district ever since.

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Company director Glen Marshall said: "We apologise profusely to our neighbours and reiterate that we have been doing our utmost to contain the fire and mitigate the amount of smoke being produced.

"It takes a very precise combination of circumstances for a wood chip fire such as this to start and they are very, very rare."

The facility is stockpiling the chippings in preparation for the opening of a £7million gasifier plant in 2008 (the wood chip was to be used to produce green energy).

Huntingdon fire brigade has been on site since the fire was discovered and decided that the best option was to let the fire burn itself out.

Andy Tucker, Huntingdon fire station manager, said: "Because of the size and nature of the fire, any attempt to break up the pile would have introduced oxygen into the structure - producing a greater amount of smoke and steam. The fire would still have lasted several days.

"Therefore, the decision was made to carry out a controlled burn, which is where crews effectively leave the woodchips as they are and allow them to burn out naturally. This means that the fire has burned for longer.

"As there are a number of homes and a busy road located very close to this incident, there were a number of visibility and nuisance concerns to consider."

Brampton resident Kay Nicholls, of Miller Way, said: "The smoke and the smell are really, really horrible. It smells like a strong bonfire and I have had to take washing off the line and re-do it because of the stink. You can put up with it for a while but it has got beyond a joke."

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said that there was no pollution being caused.

"It doesn't smell very nice or look very nice but it is not harmful," the spokesman added.

The 20-acre site at Ellington recycles all green waste for Huntingdonshire District Council as well as wood chip waste.

A spokesman for HDC said the council was monitoring the situation but the responsibility lay with the site owners and the fire brigade.

Mr Marshall added: "Unfortunately, it is one of those things but it is very, very unlikely to happen again as such large quantities of wood chippings will not be stockpiled once the gasifier opens next year.

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