Fire at Newhaven waste site was accidental

The fire at Skip It in Newhaven. Picture by Cllr Steve Saunders.
The fire at Skip It in Newhaven. Picture by Cllr Steve Saunders.

An investigation into a fire which ripped through a waste facility in Newhaven has revealed it was accidental.

The blaze broke out at Skip It containers in North Quay Road on December 5 last year.

Plumes of smoke could be seen for miles around as 200 tonnes of waste caught alight. It saw 17 appliances from across East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service attend the scene, with firefighters battling the blaze for seven days.

Newhaven town cllr Steve Saunders said he wanted to see lessons learned from the fire and said agencies involved in dealing with and investigating the fire had a ‘responsibility’ to put systems in place to ensure the risk of future incidents was minimised.

He said businesses should have been contacted so they can express how the blaze affected them as part of the fire and Environment Agency investigations.

A spokeswoman for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said the purpose of its fire investigation was to identify the cause and origin of the fire, looking at where and how it started. But said the service would work with the company and others to help reduce the chance of further incidents.

Cllr Saunders said: “Whilst the agencies involved in dealing with and investigating the fire are not responsible for the financial losses incurred by all the companies involved, they have a responsibility to ensure lessons are learned and systems are put in place to try and ensure any future incidents are minimised and surrounding residents and businesses are properly informed and kept free of danger.

“In order to do this, they should be asking them how they were affected and liaising with them as to the best way to keep them informed, should such an issue happen again. This was, after all, the third or fourth waste fire we have had to endure in Newhaven in as many years. The hard work of the firefighters at the time and council officers that co-ordinated the information and monitoring at the time was well received and we must be thankful there were no injuries or fatalities.

“Council tax and business rates are collected by the local authorities and agencies with responsibilities for safety and those residents and companies paying these fees deserve the courtesy of a thorough investigation and to be contacted as they promised to do in their statements in the media.”

A spokeswoman for the fire service said: “We can understand that locals and businesses affected by the smoke from the fire are worried about the possibility of another incident. We would like to reassure them that we are aware of their concerns and take them seriously.

“The purpose of a fire investigation is to identify the cause and the origin of the fire, looking at where and how it started.

“We can confirm the fire at the Skip It Containers site was accidental.

“We will work with the company – and others who carry out similar work - to help reduce the chance of further incidents. It should also be noted the Environment Agency issues permits for waste disposal sites. We worked alongside the Agency during the fire to ensure the risk of water pollution was minimised.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “The Environment Agency continues to carry out its detailed investigation into this incident and our work is ongoing. Until our investigation has been concluded we are unable to make any further comment. The public are encouraged to report pollution incidents to our 24 hour hotline on 0800 807060.”