Full story on recycling centre fire

A414 fire woodchip1
A414 fire woodchip1

Experts still can’t say how long it will take firefighters to put out a giant blaze at a recycling centre on the borders of Hemel Hempstead and St Albans.

The mountain of wood waste at the site in Appspond Lane in Potters Crouch has been burning since Saturday night and shows no signs of going out yet.

The inferno has caused road closures, power cuts and water shortages in surrounding neighbourhoods.

Herts Fire Service spokesman David Henning said: “It’s impossible to say how long it will take because it’s a huge pile of recycled wood that is fuelling itself. It could be days or even longer.”

Smoke from the blaze blowing onto the road forced highways officials to close the A414 and the A4147 between Hemel Hempstead and St Albans on Monday at 3am.

The roads were re-opened before rush hour on Tuesday but today (Wednesday) the northbound carriageway of the A414 between the A405 and its junction with the M1 was closed again.

It means more delays for motorists, who are advised to lplan their journeys and leave early.

Clearly signed diversions are in place. Traffic permitted to use motorways is advised to use the nearby M1 and the A405.

Non-motorway traffic is being diverted via the A414 Breakspear Way and Two Waters Way, the A41, and the A405.

Firefighters from Hemel Hempstead, Wheathampstead, Watford and St Albans have been working in shifts using jets and hose reels to contain the fire.

At its height more than seven crews were battling the inferno, which could be seen from the motorway.

Firefighters used so much water from hydrants that people who lived along Hemel Hempstead Road in Leverstock Green had water shortages as well as a power cut.

Affinity Water delivered a crate of emergency water supplies on Monday afternoon and the residents have been living without water from their taps ever since.

Francesca Turner, who is a mum of 19-month-old twins and lives in the area, has been struggling with the situation.

She said: “I’ve had to drive around the M25 to St Albans to use a friend’s washing machine and shower.

“The water comes in short spurts so I’ve managed to wash baby bottles but it hasn’t been easy.

“The worst was on Sunday night when we had the power cut so we didn’t have any heating. I had to wrap the kids up in extra blankets.

“My husband hasn’t seen much of the children since Monday because he has to leave for work earlier and is getting home later from his job in London because of the road closure diversions.”

Neighbours who live near the recycling centre have made a number of complaints about the amount of wood and traffic from delivery lorries.

One neighbour said a fire at the site some years ago burned for months.

Back in July the Environment Agency issued the recycling site owners with an enforcement notice to reduce the amount of wood waste at the site to less than 10,000 tonnes.

When the deadline was not met, in September the Environment Agency suspended the site operator’s permits, stopping them from importing any compost or wood waste to the site.

The operators were also ordered to remove risk of heat, fire and serious pollution.

Environment Agency spokesman Lewis Brown said: “We take tough action with those operators that fail to improve and be good neighbours.

“The fire service will investigate the fire and we will continue to work with them and the local authority on the next steps.”