Review of Chinese lantern use urged after UK recycling plant fire

About 100,000 tonnes of plastic involved in major blaze at facility near Birmingham

A chief fire officer in the UK has called for a review into the use of Chinese lanterns after one started a huge blaze today which caused £6 million (€7 million) of damage to a recycling centre near Birmingham.

About 100,000 tonnes of material has been on fire at Jayplas recycling facility in Smethwick, near Birmingham, in what is one of the largest blazes in the region in recent years.

Fire investigators have established that a Chinese lantern — captured on CCTV falling onto the site — was to blame for the fire, which at its height was being tackled by more than 200 firefighters.

Vijith Randeniya, chief fire officer of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service, said: "My forensics people have been here from the start and have reviewed CCTV and and spoken to people and looked at the way the fire started, and looking at the CCTV evidence, you can see a Chinese lantern floating gently, and then land and then eight minutes later you see the fire start."


‘Sensible discussion’

He said the Chief Fire Officers Association had previously called for a review of the use of Chinese lanterns and said it was time that “sensible people have a sensible discussion” about the issue.

The West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service earlier said it had more than 35 appliances and at one point up to 200 firefighters at the scene in Dartmouth Road after the blaze was first reported at about 11pm last night.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said 11 firefighters have been treated for a variety of injuries with three taken to hospital, although none are seriously hurt.

Eight others were treated at the scene for minor heat-related injuries, a spokesman for the service said.

Nearby residents have been advised to keep their windows and doors closed as a precaution.

A West Midlands Fire Service spokesman said: “Around 100,000 tonnes of plastic recycling material is involved in the blaze.

“We’ve had a couple of similar fires in the last few months in the region but there isn’t a trend.

“The blaze is certainly one of the largest we’ve tackled but not the largest ever.

“We’re making good progress at the moment at the scene.

“There is no danger to the public but we have advised residents to keep their windows and doors shut as a precautionary measure.”

Smoke column

There had been fears that flights at Birmingham International Airport could have been affected by the huge 6,000ft (1,830m) column of smoke thrown up from the intense blaze.

However, an airport spokesman said “operations were continuing as normal” and no flights had been affected.

An ambulance service spokesman said the smoke plume from the blaze was so high it could be seen in Warwickshire, 30 miles away.

No-one from Jayplas — J&A Young (Leicester) Ltd — was as yet available for comment.