A 25-day blaze at Westwood Industrial Estate is finally out

Firefighters will leave the scene today

Firefighters have fully put out the blaze at the unit on Westwood Industrial Estate after a 25 day operation.

Crews were called to the blaze at the former Cummins unit at 6.20am on Saturday, September 15.

At the height of the fire there were 80 firefighters, 14 engines and specialist vehicles on the scene.

Acrid smoke from the blaze covered Westwood and Margate, and even further afield, throughout the duration of the incident. Northdown Primary was closed due to “unsafe carbon monoxide readings.”

Photo Tyrone Keen

The Westwood unit was packed with 6,000 bales of the waste, according to the Environment Agency. The bales were made up of Refuse-derived fuel (RDF) which is  largely combustible components of such waste as non recyclable plastics (not including PVC), paper cardboard, labels, and other corrugated materials.

Today ( October 10) the emergency phase of the incident led by Kent Fire and Rescue Service will come to a close and firefighting operations will cease, ahead of schedule. Duty of care will be handed to the land owner, and Thanet District Council will be the facilitators to the recovery process.

The fire service now deems the site safe in terms of the fire being fully out, and therefore will no longer have a presence there. Public Health England’s advice to close windows and doors has now been lifted, as smoke is no longer coming from the site.

Photo KFRS

KFRS Area Manager Chris Else said: “On behalf of all the agencies involved throughout this incident, we would like to thank everyone living and working near the site for their cooperation over the past three weeks.

“The fire caused great inconvenience to some and we would like to thank you for your support while firefighters worked to make the area safe.”

Baled waste pulled from the unit by firefighters Photo David Rankin

On Sunday 23 September a boy and two girls, all aged 12 from Margate, and a 13-year-old girl from Margate were arrested on suspicion of arson. They have subsequently been released pending further investigation.

A business rates document compiled by Thanet council and updated in June of this year reveals the company listed as holding the rates account for the unit at Westwood Industrial Estate is Devon-based DW Land Ltd.

Photo John Horton

The company is listed as occupying Unit P/CIL Unit P as of January 1, 2017, with uses described as workshop and premises and factory and premises.

The director of DW Land Ltd, David Weeks, is named as the person with significant control of the company on Companies House as of January 18, 2018.

A spokesman for the unit owner, British Virgin Islands company Conservation Property Holdings, claimed that it had rented the property out to the firm. Spokesman Biju Ramakrishnan claimed RDF (Refuse-derived fuel) was stored at the unit after a lease was signed.

Investigation

Fears that the site was a potential fire hazard due to the waste in the building were raised in a BBC report in January.

Prior to that Thanet District Council officers visited the site in May 2017 and reported concerns about waste to the Environment Agency.

The agency has confirmed an investigation was carried out and is ongoing.

An EA spokesman said: “We cannot comment on the possibility of any potential enforcement action that we may or may not take until our investigation is concluded. The operator/landowner of the site is legally responsible for the removal of the deposited waste.”

Image Simon Moores

The Environment Agency confirmed that a licence to store waste at the site had not been issued.

The spokesman said: “This is illegal waste. Our investigation is continuing. We did serve notice on the operator in 2017 to clear the site but that was ignored.

“We continue to investigate and to keep our legal options under review. We are working with KFRS and Thanet council and will continue to gather evidence of what we believe to be an illegal waste site.”

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