Smethwick fire: Chinese lantern 'caused largest blaze'

Firefighters tackle blaze in Smethwick West Midlands Fire Service was called to the fire late on Sunday night
The fire as seen from Handsworth More than 200 firefighters tackled the fire off Dartmouth Road
Smoke seen across Birmingham As dawn broke the smoke could be seen for miles across the area leading to some dramatic pictures
Firefighters at the scene of the fire on Monday afternoon Fire chiefs said the heat coming off the fire was "tremendous"
Smethwick fire The fire, believed to be started by a Chinese lantern, involves 100,000 tonnes of plastic spread across about 90,000 sq m
Smethwick fire Firefighters have contained the blaze but expect to be at the fire for a number of days
Smoke is seen drifting over Birmingham city centre The smoke blocked out the early morning sun in the centre of Birmingham, miles from the fire

Related Stories

A huge fire involving 100,000 tonnes of plastic recycling material, thought to have been sparked by a Chinese lantern, has been contained say firefighters.

Crews described the blaze, which also involved a factory unit, as the largest they had seen in the West Midlands.

More than 200 firefighters attended the fire in Smethwick. Three of them have been taken to hospital.

The fire, which produced a 6,000ft smoke plume, is said to have caused £6m damage to the Jayplas depot.

Fire chiefs have now called for an "urgent review" into the use of Chinese lanterns.

Chief fire officer Vij Randeniya said it was the 15th fire at a waste recycling site in the West Midlands this year and said he was calling for a meeting with plant operators.

Aerial footage shows the extent of the fire

Mike Maxwell, the director of Jayplas, said the fire had been "a tragic accident over which we had no control".

The blaze in Dartmouth Road, which is expected to take about three days to fully extinguish, is within an industrial estate, but the closest residents were being advised to keep windows closed.

The fire service said Dartmouth Road, Halfords Lane and Brasshouse Lane were closed to traffic and that the fire was likely to cause congestion in the area.

Nearby Galton Valley Primary School, in Brasshouse Lane, had been closed because of the road closures.

Mr Randeniya said the fire, which began at about 23:00 BST on Sunday, had taken eight minutes to take hold after a lantern landed in the depot.

The service has previously campaigned against the use of Chinese lanterns.

'Steady progress'

"What you're doing in an unregulated and uncontrolled way is putting fire in the sky and every now and again it lands on something like this and we're here for three days," Mr Randeniya said.

In a statement, West Midlands Fire Service urged community leaders and members of the public to discourage the use of Chinese lanterns.

It said there was "wide scope" for limiting the use of such lanterns and questioned whether event licences would be needed for anyone wanting to release them.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was raising awareness of the risks of sky lanterns and looking to see what could be done to improve fire safety.

It is also asking councils to look at the licensing of mass releases of the lanterns.

Smethwick fire

Mr Randeniya said they had made "steady progress" on the fire, although it had caused "£6m of devastation".

He said: "We can see the seat of the fire, but we can't get to it at the moment - and that measures about 300m by 300m.

"Conditions are difficult and it's quite tricky underfoot so we're having to be extremely careful. We can only take it 100m at a time but hopefully by tomorrow we will have made substantial progress."

About 100 firefighters remained at the site earlier and officials said their priority was to protect nearby buildings.

Mr Maxwell, from the recycling plant, apologised to all the people living nearby for the disruption caused and said they hoped to "have the site up and running as soon as possible".

Area commander Steve Vincent said there were reports the smoke was visible 50 miles away

He added: "Jayplas will do everything we can to assist the emergency services and the Environment Agency to ensure the site and surrounding areas are made safe and cleaned up as quickly as possible with minimum impact to the local environment."

Area commander Steve Vincent described it as the "largest fire that we've had in the West Midlands".

The ambulance service said it had treated 13 firefighters "for a variety of minor injuries, though three were taken to hospital overnight".

"Injuries include heat exhaustion, injuries to eyes and an ankle as well as one minor burn," a spokesman added.

'Loud bangs'

Public Health England in the West Midlands said smoke from any source could contain substances to irritate breathing, skin or eyes.

"People with asthma and other respiratory conditions may be particularly susceptible to the smoke and should carry and use their medication [such as inhalers] as usual," said a spokesman.

Witness Jack Awal said he could see the fire from his home two miles away in Handsworth.

He said: "I heard a loud bang and went outside to see what it was.

"I immediately recognised where the smoke was coming from. I knew it had to be a factory.

"It was like a scene from a movie. There were so many large explosions and loud bangs. It was like a firework display - there were loud crackles and bangs every few seconds."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Birmingham & Black Country



14 °C 9 °C

BBC Local Live

    News on the hour 14:57: BBC WM

    The top stories in the 15:00 bulletin are:

    Lord of the Flies in Birmingham 14:47: Satnam Rana Arts reporter, BBC Midlands Today

    One of Europe's biggest dance events, International Dance Festival, gets under way in Birmingham and includes a variety of outdoor performances and new productions.

    Satnam Rana with a dancer

    It'll also see Mathew Bourne's Lord of the Flies production coming to the city. It's a show which has given local dancers an opportunity to perform alongside professionals.

    I'll be previewing the festival on tonight's edition of Midlands Today on BBC One.

    Dudley to host music festival 14:35: Halesowen News

    Dudley town centre is set to be packed this weekend for a free music festival headlined by a global star.

    'Fight for survival' 14:26:

    BBC Late Kick Off Midlands tweets: We'll be focussing on the fight for survival in Late Kick Off Studio on Monday. Blues fans welcome. @BcfcDotCom:

    Press conference at Birmingham City
    Your views 14:15:

    We've introduced BBC Local Live to bring you the latest news, sport, travel and weather all in one place. Tell us what you think.

    Teen arrested after gun violence 14:06: Express and Star

    A teenager has been arrested on suspicion firearms offences after gun and knife violence flared in Wolverhampton city centre.

    News on the hour 13:56: BBC WM

    Coming up in the 14:00 news:

    • A firm near Wolverhampton's announced it's cutting more than 140 jobs
    • A Staffordshire teenager with incurable cancer has now raised more than £1.5m for the Teenage Cancer Trust
    • Police are warning people to be aware when answering the door - after arresting three men on suspicion of trying to defraud a Birmingham pensioner
    Syrian terrorism Q&A 13:46:

    Dudley Police tweets: If you have a question on terrorism or about the Syrian conflict & cannot get online at 5pm, ask it NOW using #WMCTU

    Heavy traffic on A38 13:36:

    BBC Travel News says there's heavier than usual traffic on the A38 Bristol Road inbound in Edgbaston, Birmingham, at the A4540 Belgrave Middleway junction because of drivers diverting away from the temporary lights on Pershore Road.

    Archives opened by comedian 13:24:

    Dudley born Lenny Henry opened the town's £6m national archives yesterday, the council says.

    Lenny Henry at Dudley's new archives

    A special plaque was unveiled in front of invited guests. It was the star's first official engagement since being given the Freedom of Dudley borough last year.

    Mother jailed 13:13: Birmingham Mail

    The newspaper tweets: BREAKING: Shamed mum who stole almost £25,000 from a church and a private school jailed. More to follow…

    Coming up on BBC One 13:05: Elizabeth Glinka Presenter, BBC Midlands Today

    Bit of a busy one today. At 13:30 we'll have the latest as police urge the wives and mothers of young Muslims to try to prevent them joining anti-government forces in Syria.

    Plus Satnam Rana has a report on one of the biggest dance festivals in Europe, which is starting in Birmingham today.

    In the news 12:55: Steve Hermon Journalist, BBC WM

    I'm reading the news on BBC WM this afternoon. At 13:00 we'll hear from a friend of Stephen Sutton who says he's humbled by him.

    The Staffordshire teenager has raised more than £1.6m for the Teenage Cancer Trust and posted an update on his condition this morning.

    I'll have more in the news bulletin shortly.

    #ThumbsUpForStephen 12:50: Stephanie Barnard BBC Local Live

    Twitter is awash with photos of celebrities and people holding up messages asking for £5 donations to Stephen's Story via #ThumbsUpForStephen.

    Photos of people holding text donations to Stephen's Story

    From Olympian's including Rebecca Adlington to comedian John Bishop and BBC WM's Pete Morgan (pictured bottom right).

    M42 delays 12:41:

    Drivers are warned to expect delays of 30 minutes on the M42 northbound at J5, A41 (Solihull), because of a spillage of 50 litres of diesel on the road and emergency repairs.

    All lanes have now reopened. Read the latest on BBC Travel News.

    Football gossip 12:30:

    BBC Sport's gossip column reports that a takeover of Birmingham has moved a step closer after proposals from at least five interested parties were discussed at a board meeting of the Blues' parent company, Birmingham International Holdings Ltd.

    Your can read the full story in the Birmingham Mail.

    Funeral of mosque chairman 12:22: BBC WM

    The funeral takes place later of Dr Muhammad Naseem, the chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque who died earlier this week at the age of 90.

    Dr Muhammad Naseem

    Funeral prayers will be held this afternoon at the mosque before his burial later at Handsworth Cemetery.

    MG sales soar 12:10: Birmingham Post

    MG'S launch of its MG3 supermini has helped spur the Birmingham car-maker on to a record sixfold sales growth in the first quarter of this year.

    News headlines 11:59: Jay Vydelingum Journalist, BBC WM

    The news headlines on BBC WM at midday include:

    'I'm still here' 11:48: via Facebook

    Stephen's story writes on Facebook: "Hi everyone, it's Stephen here- still here and still fighting!!! Throughout the whole journey I've been realistic about my position and at my last post I genuinely thought I was a goner.... But hey, I'm still here!!

    "Sunday morning my right lung collapsed: I had a full emergency team surrounding me and in all honesty was probably not too far from nearly leaving you all. I survived, but the following day I woke up and felt very weak- the worry was that whatever was left of my health would just continue to deteriorate." Read the full post online.

    Tool manufacturers to close 11:38:

    More than 140 jobs are being cut at at tool manufacturers in Featherstone.

    Sandvik Machining Solutions has announced it's shutting its plant and moving production to other sites around the world.

    Richard Harris, company director, says: "The overriding reason is we have over-capacity in our plants in Europe and this is one of the smaller ones."

    Crime falls 15% 11:29:

    Overall crime in England and Wales fell by 15% in 2013, according to an official survey.

    Ken Dodd may stand for Conservatives 11:18: Birmingham Mail

    Comedy legend Ken Dodd could tickle the fancy of Midland voters - by standing as a Tory candidate at the general election.

    Donations 'hugely touching' 11:08: BBC Breakfast

    The director of fundraising at the Teenage Cancer Trust says it's been "hugely touching" to see donations flood in following a terminally ill Staffordshire teenager's appeal.

    Kate Collins, director of fundraising at the Teenage Cancer Trust talks to BBC Breakfast

    Kate Collins (pictured left), says the charity specialises in "making sure teenage cancer patients can be treated like young people first and cancer patients second and not lose their identity".

    She says the story of Stephen Sutton is "a real testament to touch a human spirit out there".

    In the news 10:58: Jay Vydelingum Journalist, BBC WM

    More than 140 jobs are being cut at Featherstone near Wolverhampton after the firm Sandvik Machining Solutions announced it is shutting its plant.

    I've just spoken to the company director, hear more in the news at 11:00.

    Your views 10:49:

    What do you think of BBC Local Live? We'd like your feedback about this service.

    Hopeful £2m raised by Friday 10:40:

    Comedian Jason Manford tells BBC Radio Stoke he's hopeful £2m will be raised for the Teenage Cancer Trust by Friday.

    Jason Manford #ThumbsUpForStephen

    He says he asked some of his celebrity friends including Chris Hoy, Simon Pegg and Sarah Millican to pose with a #ThumbsUpForStephen poster on Twitter yesterday.

    Jason says: "Stephen's Story has raised more money in the past 24 hours than I have doing gigs for the past four years for the charity."

    UKIP angry over party rival name 10:28:

    UKIP says it is considering legal action over the name of another Eurosceptic party contesting the forthcoming European elections.

    A party called An Independence from Europe has been set up by a former UKIP West Midlands MEP, Mike Nattrass, who was deselected as a candidate by the party. Read the full story on BBC Politics.

    International Dance Festival 10:14: Midlands Today

    Artists from all over the world will be coming to the region over the next month to take part in one of Europe's largest dance events.

    Dancers rehearsing for Birmignham's International Dance Festival

    The International Dance Festival will feature world premieres and community events, with 22-dancers from across the Midlands performing in Mathew Bourne's Lord of the Flies at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

    The event last took place in 2012 when visitor numbers hit 60,000.

    Cash machine set on fire 10:00: Express and Star

    Sparks flew this morning as fire crews were forced to break into a cash point that had been set alight.

    Top story 09:55: Jay Vydelingum Journalist, BBC WM

    Anti-terror police in the West Midlands are asking Muslim women to stop their sons, husbands and boyfriends from travelling to Syria to fight in the civil war.

    We'll have reaction to that story and more on BBC WM's news bulletin at 10:00.

    Accident on A41 09:47:

    BBC Travel News reports the A41 Wergs Road in Tettenhall is partially blocked and there's slow traffic southbound at the Wrottesley Road junction because of an accident involving two vehicles.

    Driver taken to hospital 09:42:

    The driver of the lorry which overturned on the M42 earlier has been taken to hospital with back pain, the ambulance service says.

    The man was helped out through the windscreen after he was trapped for a short time.

    The northbound carriageway of the M42 is closed between junctions 4 and 5, near Solihull.

    Ofsted chief visits Birmingham 09:33:

    The BBC understands Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, was in Birmingham yesterday as the city council named 18 schools that the watchdog had been sent in to inspect over an alleged plot by Muslim hard-liners to seize control of governing bodies.

    Sir Michael Wilshaw

    In all, 25 schools are being investigated over claims that male and female pupils were segregated, sex education banned and in one case that the al Qaida-linked Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was praised in an assembly.

    High pollen count 09:18:

    Healthy Brum tweets: Good morning. Today's #healthybrum pollen count is HIGH. Check out our #hayfever advice

    Syria plea 09:08: Adrian Goldberg Presenter, BBC WM

    As police call on Muslim women to stop their men heading off to Syria, I'm asking should it really be a crime to topple a vicious dictator like President Assad?

    The prime minister wanted to take military action against him last autumn and the West wants him out. Yet if British Muslims are willing to put their lives on the line to do what the military won't they risk arrest on their return home and face charges of terrorism. Listen live

    News headlines 08:58: Jay Vydelingum Journalist, BBC WM

    The top three news headlines at 09:00 on BBC WM include:

    'Up-and-over' M42 diversion 08:56:

    Steve Bird, from the Highways Agency, tells BBC WM the HGV overturned on the M42 at about 02:00.

    He says: "We've got an up-and-over diversion at junction five which allows traffic to exit at that junction and hop across the roundabout and go over. Though it's not ideal it's better than the original diversion."

    The agency is not yet able to say when the road will reopen. An inspection of the carriageway is due at 10:00.

    £1.5m raised for cancer charity 08:47:

    A Staffordshire teenager with terminal cancer has now raised more than £1.5m for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

    Just Giving total on Stephen's Story page

    Stephen Sutton, 19, from Burntwood posted a message on Facebook on Tuesday saying "a final thumbs up from me!" and donations to his Just Giving page have soared over the past 48 hours

    This morning he's received more than 61,700 donations.

    Jct 5 of M42 closed 08:36:

    The Highways Agency tweets: #M42 northbound is now only closed within J5 with the closure has moved up from J4 traffic is still advised to seek alternative routes

    Overturned lorry 08:24:

    The Technical Rescue Unit from West Midlands Fire Service has tweeted this photo of the overturned lorry on the M42 near junction 5.

    Overturned lorry on the M42

    Emergency services say no other vehicles were involved and the Highways Agency is reporting long delays.

    Police Syria plea 08:13: Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    Counter terrorism police in the West Midlands are urging Muslim women to come forward if they think their relatives are planning to join Syria's civil war.

    A group of armed anti-government fighters in Syria

    British counter-terrorism police chiefs are making an unprecedented appeal to Muslim women to urge their relatives not to travel to Syria to fight.

    The national campaign for women to intervene follows a string of deaths of men from the UK who were fighting against President Assad's regime.

    M42 closed 08:04:

    The M42 is closed northbound between J4, A34 (Shirley) and J5, A41 (Solihull) because of an overturned lorry, which has spilled 50 litres of diesel on the road.

    Diversions are in operation and travel time is estimated to be about 30 minutes. Read the latest on BBC Travel News.

    Showers developing later 08:02: Mel Coles BBC Weather

    It's a misty foggy start for many places this morning. It should lift quite readily and the cloud will slowly start to break up to leave plenty of bright or sunny spells.

    Showers will develop this afternoon and although they'll be isolated, some of them could be heavy. The winds are light and temperatures are expected to reach 15C (59F).

    Good morning 08:00: Stephanie Barnard BBC Local Live

    I'll be bringing you the very latest news, sport, travel and weather updates for Birmingham and the Black Country today.



  • Spanner CrabEdible images

    Are these the best food photographs of the past year?

  • Beckford's TowerFolly or fact?

    The unlikely debt capital of Britain

  • European starlingBird-brained

    How 60 starlings multiplied into a nightmare flock of 200 million

  • Observatory in Chile with sun in the backgroundStar struck

    Why tourists are flocking to Chile's observatories

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • PortlandTake it easy

    Could this be the most relaxed business city in the world?


  • Papers Please gameClick Watch

    Meet the ‘bedroom programmer’ whose game has sold half a million copies and won a Bafta

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.