Based on the recent number of serious fires, which have had a serious impact on local communities and the environment, the Environment Agency has issued a Technical Guidance Note: Reducing Fire Risk at Sites Storing Combustible Materials.
The new Technical Guidance Note supports their work to review operators’ site accident plans and for use during inspections of waste sites.
One of the key features of the guidance is a simple table to show the maximum stack/pile sizes and separation distances e.g. the distances between two piles. This guidance has been based on evidence that has shown this would significantly reduce the duration of any fire, and also the impact on the local community.
The Technical Guidance Note is aimed at:
By re-emphasising the importance that every site has an adequate accident plan that is fully implemented on site.
Taking action to prevent fires is a very important focus of the Environment Agency’s activities because it helps prevent significant impacts on businesses, communities and the environment. Individual waste fires this year have cost society up to £6M. Prevention is better than fire-fighting, the cost of clear-up and harm to the environment and communities.
Reducing storage times
A significant number of fires are at sites where combustible materials have been stored for longer than 6 months. Some materials have an increased risk of self-combustion the longer it is stored.
Reducing the size and impact of fire
There are many ways to reduce the size and impact of a fire including fire walls, sprinklers and stack size & separation. This guidance describes the measures that can be taken and contains a simple table to clearly set out the maximum size of stockpiles & stacks and the distance between them, if you do not have other fire prevention and mitigation measures on site.
Additionally, The Environment Agency has written to operators of 7,800 sites asking them to review their accident plans, clearly setting out what steps they are taking to prevent fires, and to minimise the seriousness of any fire.