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FAQs - Westwood fire

Frequently asked questions Westwood Fire, Margate

Where is the fire?

Westwood Industrial Estate, Enterprise Way, Margate

 

When did it start?

Kent Fire and Rescue Service was called to the incident at 06:17 on Saturday, 15 September

 

When will the incident be over?

Kent Fire and Rescue Service is expected to have a presence on the site until late October. Then we enter the recovery phase and duty of care is handed to the land owner, supported by Thanet District Council as the lead agency.

 

What is on fire?

Approximately 16,000 large plastic wrapped bales of recyclable household waste – items typically found in your bin at home, including paper and plastic.

 

How many fire engines are at the scene?

Initially there were 14 fire engines on scene to tackle the fire, as well two height vehicles so firefighters could attack the fire from above. Now the fire is contained, resources on site have been reduced to three fire engines in the day and two at night. There’s no firefighting happening at night to ensure the safety of crews, but firefighters are there to monitor the fire, recycle water and keep the site safe.

 

Why have the number of fire engines at the scene reduced since the start of the fire?

The fire is contained and under control at a point where we don’t need a high number of fire engines at the scene, allowing more resources to be available for incidents elsewhere in the county.

 

Why is the fire taking a long time to put out?

It’s normal for this type of burning material to take some time to fully extinguish. This is a deep seated fire and the design of the building has required that we demolish some of the building to get to the waste material. This type of material, in this volume, retains heat making it burn for longer. Firefighters have to drag the waste out, turn it over and dampen it down – a very time consuming task.

 

How long will smoke be in the air?

At the start of the fire smoke could be seen for miles, but that has now reduced significantly. Smoke is expected to remain in the area until firefighting operations are complete, and that could be in late October. As crews and contractors drag and turn the burning material over, this may result in an occasional temporary increase in the amount of smoke coming from the site. As the wind direction changes different parts of Thanet may experience varying amounts of smoke in the air.

 

What can I do to reduce the impact of smoke on myself and my home/workplace?

Kent Fire and Rescue Service has been working closely with Public Health England, which advises people living and working near to the site what they can do to keep clear of the smoke. The main advice is to stay indoors where possible and close windows and doors.

 

What’s the latest advice from Public Health England?

 • People living and working in areas affected by smoke should stay indoors and keep their doors and windows closed    

 • Motorists who have to travel through the smoke should keep windows closed, turn off air conditioning and keep their air vents closed  

 • Some of the substances present in smoke can irritate the lining of the nose, throat and lungs, the skin and the eyes. Symptoms may include coughing and wheezing, sore throat, feeling short of breath, runny nose or eyes or chest pain. In general, exposure to smoke is more likely to affect people who have existing breathing problems, lung or heart conditions     

 • People who are generally fit and well are unlikely to experience long-term health problems from temporary exposure to smoke from a fire

 • The very young and very old, smokers, and people with flu or flu-like illnesses, may also be at greater risk after exposure to smoke from fires.

 • To minimise your exposure, limit the amount of time you spend outside in the smoke

 • People with asthma who may be in the vicinity of the fire should carry their inhaler

If symptoms persist seek medical advice by calling NHS 111 or by contacting your General Practitioner (GP). If a medical consultant is already treating an existing health condition, discuss your concerns and symptoms with them. In the case of an emergency call 999.

 

How will the smoke impact my health?

Smoke can irritate the lining of the nose, throat and lungs, the skin and the eyes. Symptoms may include coughing and wheezing, sore throat, feeling short of breath, runny nose or eyes or chest pain. In general, exposure to smoke is more likely to affect people who have existing breathing problems, lung or heart conditions. People with asthma who may be in the vicinity of the fire should carry their inhaler.

Symptoms should resolve fairly rapidly once exposure to smoke stops.

 

What should I do if I feel unwell and think it’s because of the smoke?

Try to stay indoors and prevent smoke from entering your home of workplace by closing windows and doors.

People with pre-existing medical conditions should see their GP.

People with asthma should carry their inhaler and if they feel their condition is worsening, they should visit their GP.

 

What do I do if I think my pet is getting poorly from the smoke?

If you think your pet is affected by the smoke, try to keep it inside where possible. Consider taking your pet to the vet for a health check if you feel its condition is worsening.

 

Has the air quality been tested?

As with any large fire the Environment Agency and Public Health England work with the fire service to assess the impacts of smoke and whether or not it is necessary to monitor air quality. Various factors are taken into account including the nature of the fire, weather conditions and whether or not the smoke plume is at ground level. In the initial stages of this fire it was felt there was no need to monitor air quality and for people to follow existing public health advice. All agencies and local authorities remain in regular contact to monitor and review the situation.

 

Does the building involved in the fire have asbestos?

Asbestos was found in the cladding of the building as part of the incident risk assessment and was removed before it could come into contact with fire, so the smoke does not contain asbestos. Testing has shown that there are no concerns regarding asbestos on or off site.

 

What is being done to recycle water?

Kent Fire and Rescue Service has worked closely with the Environment Agency to minimise impacts on the environment during this incident. Water used to extinguish the fire is being recycled using a pumping system which places the used run off water into large dams around the site, provided by the Environment Agency.

 

What can I do to help the firefighters on the scene?

Kent Fire and Rescue Service really appreciates the support of the local community and lots of people have offered to help out with refreshments for firefighters at the scene. Welfare is taken very seriously by the fire service and the firefighters are being well looked after. A huge thank you goes to the Salvation Army which has been outstanding in providing support in terms of keeping the firefighters fed and watered, and general welfare. We would also request that residents and business be patient while we work bring the incident to a quick end.

 

What other agencies have been involved in the management of this incident?

Kent Fire and Rescue Service: Lead agency - tackling the fire, making the scene safe, keeping the local community informed and carrying out a fire investigation

Public Health England: Providing health information, advice and guidance

Environment Agency: Monitoring environmental impacts and handling site enforcement

Kent Police: Investigating the circumstances surrounding the fire

Kent County Council: Keeping schools informed

Thanet District Council: Keeping businesses informed and set to lead on the recovery phase of this incident once firefighting operations are complete

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust: Monitoring impacts on the hospital

 

What is being done to find out how the fire started?

Kent Fire and Rescue Service, Kent Police and the Environment Agency are all carrying out investigations to establish the circumstances around the fire.

 

What happens once the fire is fully out?

Once Kent Fire and Rescue Service deems the site to be safe and the fire is completely out, firefighters will leave the site. Then duty of care will be left with the land owner, who will be supported by Thanet District Council as the lead agency during the recovery stage of the incident.

 

Has the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital (QEQM)  in Margate seen an increase in people self presenting with symptoms related to the smoke?

No, the hospital has not experienced extra people self presenting to the emergency department as a result of smoke in the area.

 

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