Two devastating fires cause havoc in St Albans: With gallery

AS the smoke from the two major fires which tore across parts of St Albans finally begins to disperse a multitude of problems continue to blight the district.

Blazes erupted at Glinwell Nursery in Smallford and Wood Recycling Services in Potters Crouch within 12 hours of each other last weekend.

Around 10,000 tonnes of recycled wood caught fire in Appspond Lane just after midnight on Saturday, while wooden pallets containing thousands of plastic trays ignited at the nursery in Hatfield Road on Sunday lunchtime.

Roads near the recycling depot have been closed over the past few days and many nearby residents have suffered loss of power and water services.

A spokesperson for Affinity Water confirmed yesterday that they were providing bottled water to those currently affected while the fire persists: “During peak water demand times, our customers in the area may have no water available to them, however the fire and rescue services are continuing to work with us to reduce their water needs during these peak times.

“We also understand that some customers are experiencing a drop in pressure and we anticipate these fluctuations in pressure to continue for the duration of the fire.”

UK Power Networks have also supplied temporary support, with one customer and a set of traffic lights requiring a generator after the fire affected an electricity pole.

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A spokeswoman added: “For safety reasons we are currently unable to access the pole to carry out repairs but will return the customers to the permanent electricity network as soon as we are able.”

There were also fears that the overhead pylon conductor cables that help supply north London would be damaged or collapse due to the fire.

A spokesman for the National Grid confirmed they had taken extra precautions to strengthen the overhead lines: “We’ve added some mechanical clamps to the conductors at either end. What that does is it prevents slippage.”

Firecrews have spent five days tackling the blaze and had to battle with low water supplies as well as dealing with the Smallford fire.

A St Albans firefighter said there were four pumps on the scene trying to extinguish the fire yesterday and they expect it could keep burning for up to seven days.

A Herts county council (HCC) spokeswoman said: “It is normal for a fire of this scale to take days, or even weeks, to extinguish.”

This is not the first time a fire has broken out at the recycling depot. Four years ago it set alight and burned for over three months.”

Redbourn district councillor Tony Swendell said the site has caused great misery over the years: “The residents of Potters Crouch have had enough. I believe it should be closed down – it’s detrimental to the environment.

“Some of the problems that it’s caused are traffic gridlock, loss of power to the locality, as well as loss of water pressure and loss of air quality.

He added: “The fire service said [the cause] was internal combustion but I don’t think you get that with wood that high.”

A HCC spokesman said he is unsure whether there would be an investigation into the cause of the blaze which began in a very large pile of recycled timber.

Heavy traffic delays have been experienced by those travelling in and around St Albans since the outbreak of the fire.

A number of road closures were enforced for 24 hours as smoke from the fire was travelling across the M1, adding at least 30 minutes travel time for some drivers.

Herts Fire Chief Roy Wilsher said the Highways Agency also put in a 40mph speed limit on the M1 on Monday due to minor accidents as motorists were distracted by the blaze.

The cause of the Glinwell Nursery fire also remains unknown.

Ten fire engines attended the blaze which began just after midday and caused a huge black plume of smoke to rise above the district.

Residents were urged to keep their windows shut due to the burning plastic on site.

In the aftermath of the fires a local recycling firm warned of the dangers of keeping combustible materials: “Storing any combustible material – including wood and plastic – is always a fire risk,” said Andy Cattigan, operations director of Waste King.

At the time of going to press the fire still continues at Wood Recycling Services. A firefighter confirmed that it was “getting slightly smaller”.

Glinwell Nursery has refused to comment on the fire on their premises and Wood Recycling Services could not be contacted for a reaction.