Please take care when disposing of ashes

Wed 18 Mar, 2015

Residents have been asked to take care over how they dispose of ashes after three fires at Household Waste and Recycling Centres in Buckinghamshire in less than a week.

The centre at Langley was forced to close twice in the space of a few days after blazes broke out, and Chesham's also had to shut temporarily for the same reason. The fires are believed to have been caused by householders placing hot ashes in the waste containers.

Lesley Clarke, Buckinghamshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Planning and the Environment, said: “Our staff were stunned by the fact that these three fires followed on so closely to each other, and we are worried that this could be repeated if people don’t take care when they are disposing of their waste. 

"Langley was also hit by a similar fire last year when a customer is believed to have placed a spent barbecue in the cardboard bin, so this is by no means a new problem for us.

“The problem is that embers, often concealed in what appears to be cold ashes, can remain hot enough to rekindle a fire for several days - especially when mixed with other combustible materials.”

The first fire was at Langley on Friday 6 March, and the centre was closed from around noon for about three hours. The same thing happened at around 4.30pm the following Monday (9 March) and the centre had to close early. Two days later, on 11 March, the Chesham site was closed between 1:45 and  2.15pm because of a fire.

Firefighters attended all of the blazes, which caused a total of about £2,000 of damage to the containers, which had to be repaired or replaced. On the first and third occasions, the fires were discovered after the waste had been left in the containers. At the second incident at Langley, site staff challenged a man, but it was too late to stop a blaze breaking out.

Neil Boustred, Head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service's Community Safety Team, said: “We have been called to a number of fires in refuse and recycling vehicles and at household waste and recycling centres over the years, and even fires caused by barbecue ashes scattered in gardens 24 or more hours after the barbecue was last used.

“Ashes should never be disposed of while they are still hot as they can cause fires that put the people who collect waste and recycling, and who work at or visit household waste and recycling centres, at risk.”