Northern Ireland

West Belfast: Waste plant fire 'could burn for 24 hours'

A fire is blazing at a west Belfast business
Image caption A fire is blazing at a west Belfast business

A fire that broke out at a recycling plant in west Belfast on Wednesday continues to burn.

Several fire engines and about 30 firefighters are still battling the fire at the Wastebeater facility on the Blackstaff Road, off Kennedy Way.

The fire service has said it is treating the fire as accidental.

Northern Ireland's chief fire officer said that the blaze could take up to 24 hours to be fully extinguished.

People living near the facility have been advised to keep their doors and windows closed.

The alarm was raised at 16:00 BST on Wednesday and, at the height of the blaze, 12 engines and 75 firefighters were at the scene.

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Media captionWest Belfast waste plant fire 'could burn for 24 hours'

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said that a large quantity of rubbish was on fire, creating a blaze stretching across 120m and reaching up to two floors in height.

Image caption Twelve fire appliances were at the scene on Wednesday night

The Fire Service Area Commander, Aidan Jennings, said on Thursday morning, that they continue to dampen down the fire.

"It's burning both on the surface and smouldering underneath, it is difficult to get access to that.

"We need to get into the building and pull that material out and get access and extinguish [the fire] entirely.

"The problem we have with that, is that the building has been impacted significantly by fire.

Image copyright Colin Williams
Image caption An aerial view of the smoke from the west Belfast fire (Picture courtesy of Colin Williams)

"Therefore we are assessing this morning structural integrity to see if we can access [the building]," he added.

He said preventing the spread of the fire had been the firefighters' first priority when they first began tackling the blaze.

SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood said that the nature and scale of the blaze raised serious questions about the location of such plants.

Mr Attwood said: "This is clearly a very serious incident and there is some suggestion that the fire may burn for a very long time yet.

Image caption Rubbish at a recycling plant is on fire in west Belfast

"Given the scale of this fire, the noxious burning and the substantial inconvenience caused to local residents and businesses, we must hope that it can be extinguished quickly.

"An incident of this nature must, however, raise serious questions. Key among those - should a plant of this nature be located in such close proximity to a residential neighbourhood, located close to other businesses or located in an industrial/manufacturing park?

"The SDLP has long argued that this kind of recycling plant should not be located at sensitive or important industry sites. There are lessons that must be learned from this incident."

Image caption The alarm was raised at about 16:00 BST

However, West Belfast MP Sinn Féin's Paul Maskey defended the plant's location.

"It's been here for over fifteen years, and this is the first incident.

"I think they have a good track record," he said.

Image caption The fire is still burning off Kennedy Way

A spokesman for Wastebeater said: "We acknowledge the inconvenience caused to local people and we will do all that we can to minimise disruption over the hours and days ahead.

"We have contingency plans in place to deal with any major incident and those plans were activated immediately."

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