Major fire at Northumberland brick manufacturing site

Firefighters were yesterday called to tackle a major blaze at the Swarland Brick Company just off the A697 near Thrunton Woods in Northumberland

Kevin Temple

More than 40 firefighters were called to tackle a major blaze at a mothballed brick manufacturing site in Northumberland.

Plumes of black smoke could be seen around Thrunton when a fire broke out at the Swarland Brick Company near to the A697.

Fire crews from Rothbury, Alnwick, West Hartford, Wooler and Pegswood were called to the scene at around 10am yesterday and were still there last night.

It is believed the huge fire started in a warehouse at the site, which has been closed since 2011.

Billowing smoke could be seen from Alnwick Moor and Corby’s Crag and there was a smell of burning plastic in the area.

A spokesman from Northumberland County Council said: “The 999 call was received at 9.42am. Five fire appliances attended from West Hartford, Rothbury, Wooler, and Alnwick and a high volume pump from Pegswood station was also used.

 

“Firefighters used breathing apparatus to gain entry to the building whilst tackling the fire.

“The fire was located in a large warehouse approximately 80 metres by 60 metres. When crews arrived they were confronted with a well-developed fire involving shredded carpet in large bales.”

Firefighters were concerned that acetylene cylinders could have been alight and jets were put in place to protect surrounding buildings.

On advice from the Environment Agency the outlet to the drains on site has been bunded to contain water runoff and prevent contamination of a nearby lake.

This is the second time a blaze has broke out at the building. In March last year a fire broke out in the kilns.

Bosses, however, said it had caused little damage and that no-one had been injured or had to be evacuated.

After making the decision to close the site, they decided to give an area of land to waste disposal company Blackwater North East, in a move aimed at offsetting a loss of revenue from its usual source.

Plans were drawn up by which a shed and some space at the yard would be used by Blackwater.

That company was based at Amble and was seeking to expand its operations with a new facility capable of processing 20,000 tonnes of used carpet per year. The brick company was set up in the late 1930s to create jobs for the unemployed of Tyneside.

At the time of the mothball, managing director Chris Blythe said the company was not selling enough bricks due to the worst building recession since the 1940s.

Production had stopped and a total of 4.2 million bricks were sitting on site.

In December 2010, redundancies were confirmed with only a skeleton staff being kept on.

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