Prime Minister promises action over 4-month fire in Northumberland

Sir Alan Beith has secured a pledge from the Prime Minister to speed up efforts to tackle a blaze at a carpet recycling firm at Thrunton

Kevin Temple

David Cameron is to urge authorities to speed up attempts to tackle a fire that has been burning near a Northumberland village since September.

He told the House of Commons he would look into efforts to end the blaze at a carpet recycling firm at Thrunton, near Alnwick, in Northumberland.

Local MP Sir Alan Beith told the Prime Minister that residents had been suffering as a result of fumes and smoke.

And he succeeded in winning a promise that Mr Cameron would personally intervene.

Fire crews from across the county battled for more than 12 hours to get the blaze under control when it destroyed two warehouses on September 3.

But it is still burning four months later, because of fears that putting it out could pollute local water supplies.

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, the Environment Agency and Public Health England are to meet this week to consider what to do next.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Sir Alan, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, asked Mr Cameron to act.

He also highlighted concerns about the fumes coming from the fire, although the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service says its initial tests have concluded that there is no health risk.

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith
Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith
 

Sir Alan asked: “Can I have his support in pressing the Environment Agency and the local authority to get this material off the site and give residents their lives back?”

Mr Cameron said: “I will certainly look in, in even more detail, to the issue he raises. I understand the concern it is causing him and his constituents.

“My understanding is environmental concerns - in particular the waste might run off and pollute local water supplies - have hampered efforts to extinguish the fire.

“I understand the local recovery group is meeting later this week to see what more can be done to remove this waste and I’m happy to intervene on his behalf to make sure this makes progress.”

A spokeswoman for the Incident Control Group, which includes the fire service and other agencies, said: “It has not been possible to tackle the fire aggressively with large volumes of water because there is a high risk that this could permanently contaminate the drinking water supply of houses at Thrunton which lies directly beneath the site.”

Options for dealing with the blaze were being considered and would depend on whether tests determined the waste was “hazardous” or not, she said.

“We fully accept that the on-going impact on the local community is a cause of frustration and concern.

“The primary concern of the incident control team is to protect the health and water supply of the people of Thrunton.”

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