Firefighters issue warning after flare in bin almost causes major incident at South Shields recycling centre

Frustrated firefighters have issued an urgent warning after averting what could have been a major incident at a recycling centre in South Shields.
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Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) were called to a blaze at Middlefields Recycling Village Recycling Centre last week (Friday, September 2) and say the incident was caused by a flare thrown in the bin.

Firefighters from South Shields Community Fire Station were deployed to the premises, in Heddon Way, and were on the scene in a matter of minutes after staff operating mechanical diggers noticed smoke.

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After spending around 25 minutes putting out the rubbish fire, an investigation found the source of the fire was flares activated from two discarded marine buoys, believed to have been incorrectly discarded into one of the skips on site.

Firefighters dealing with the incident at the recycling centreFirefighters dealing with the incident at the recycling centre
Firefighters dealing with the incident at the recycling centre
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A senior firefighter at TWFRS has warned that this could have caused a major incident and these types of materials should not just be thrown in the bin.

Station manager Andrew Nelson said: “The early detection of the fire by quick thinking Council staff, and the swift actions of our firefighters, has prevented a potentially serious fire from occurring.

“To avoid this happening again we would urge marine enthusiasts and residents to correctly discard of their specialist equipment, and not to use regular household refuse outlets to disperse of the materials.

The flares which caused the incidentThe flares which caused the incident
The flares which caused the incident
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“If flares and pyrotechnics are discarded inappropriately they have the potential to inadvertently activate, which could result in the ignition of nearby combustible materials.

“If a major fire had taken place at this premises, the overall risk to residents and council staff, and the potential knock-on effects to the local environment, could be devastating.

“This is why adhering to awareness information is essential to help prevent a fire of this nature happening in the future.”

Councillor Ernest Gibson, cabinet member for Transport and Neighbourhoods at South Tyneside Council, said: “Incidents such as this really highlight the dangers of not disposing of specialist or hazardous items correctly, the damage that they can cause and the risk it poses to the safety of others.

Damage caused at the sceneDamage caused at the scene
Damage caused at the scene
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“They can spark, setting fire to any combustible materials around them. It is particularly dangerous in our waste collection vehicles or at waste sites, where they can cause a large fire.

“Had it not been for the quick-thinking waste officers at Middlefields, the consequences could have been disastrous.”

Residents have been urged not to put specialist items, such as boat flares, in their general waste or recycling bins, or in the general waste and recycling skips at the Recycling Village.

Instead, they should contact their supplier in the first instance for guidance on safe disposal, while specialist hazardous waste disposal companies can also be contacted directly.

Damage caused at the scene of the fire.Damage caused at the scene of the fire.
Damage caused at the scene of the fire.
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However, other hazardous items such as batteries and gas canisters can be safely disposed of at the Recycling Village, using the dedicated facilities for these types of products.

For further information about the types of waste that can be correctly discarded at South Tyneside Council’s Middlefields Recycling Village please visit