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Fire at Braintree landfill is ’12th in recent years’

  • By Stuart Woodward
  • BBC News

Legend, The May 12 fire is the latest of a dozen incidents at the Braintree site.

A landfill fire is the latest of a dozen at the same location in recent years, the BBC has confirmed.

Around 600 tonnes of mixed textiles caught fire at Straits Mill, Braintree, Essex on Sunday evening.

Renew Recycling (London) Limited – which is responsible for the waste – was fined in 2023 for breaching rules imposed by the Environment Agency.

The company did not respond to the BBC’s request for comment.

“This is not a natural phenomenon”

Craig McLellan, of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS), said there had been “around 12 fires, three of them large” at the site, near Convent Lane, in recent years, including two last week.

“It’s always a concern for us when we face repeated fires,” he said.

“We studied them all. The majority of the causes appeared to be undetermined, but I can say that this was not a natural phenomenon due to the self-heating of this material.”

Image source, Stuart Woodward/BBC

Legend, Several tons of waste, which ECFRS hopes will soon be removed, remain on site

The Environment Agency visited the site 24 times between December 2017 and March 2019 and found waste such as wood and carpets being stored illegally.

Fire services visited the site in 2018 and raised concerns about the fire risk, with tests showing the wood had reached internal temperatures of 65°C (149°F).

Chelmsford Crown Court also ordered the site to be cleared of waste.

Image source, Stuart Woodward/BBC

Legend, Craig McLellan said brigade was ‘concerned’ about repeated fires

ECFRS told the BBC that “a lot of effort” had since been put into cleaning up the site by Renew Recycling, working with the Environment Agency, but that more work needed to be done.

“We are working to remove the last remaining part of the textiles from the site, which means there will no longer be a fire risk,” Mr McLellan said.

The Environment Agency told the BBC in a statement that it had “continued to visit the site and monitor progress to ensure the lawful removal was carried out within the court-set deadlines”.

“This site is an active case and we will continue to take appropriate enforcement action,” he adds.

The impact on the local environment – which includes a nearby nature reserve – was kept to a minimum during the latest fire, according to the Environment Agency.

“We would like to reassure the local community that we take waste crime and environmental risks very seriously,” its spokesperson said.