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Smoke plumes from industrial estate blaze
10:18am Monday 12th July 2010 in News
THICK black smoke filled the skies around Durham for the second time in under three months yesterday, after a major fire broke out at a plastics factory.
At its peak, the blaze enveloped about 40 tonnes of plastics and 15 tonnes of wooden pallets at Wavin Plastics, on Meadowfield Industrial Estate, west of the city.
Materials both stored outside on a yard and inside a factory building went up in flames.
Company staff were on site when the fire broke out but no-one was hurt and the wind blew much of the smoke away from residential areas, towards the A167.
Six fire engines, 40 firefighters, an aerial ladder platform and breathing apparatus were rushed to the scene, while police blocked nearby roads, asked residents to close their windows and evacuated curious onlookers away from the unit's perimeter fence.
The emergency services were called to the blaze shortly after 2pm, with firefighters, at times using five water jets, taking about 90 minutes to bring it under control.
Dave Turnbull, group manager for the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said the blaze started quite prolifically but firefighters, with the help of the factory's internal sprinkler system, knocked it down extremely quickly and the firm's management was very pleased with the service's response.
Mr Turnbull added he hoped the fire would be entirely extinguished late last night.
A investigation into the cause of the fire will be launched today, but it is not thought to be suspicious.
The incident comes under three months after thousands of shredded tyres caught fire at the EnivroTyres recycling unit, less than a mile away on Littleburn Industrial Estate.
The tyre blaze, which burned for several weeks from Wednesday, April 21, caused a plume of thick black smoke to rise hundreds of feet into the sky, so it could be spotted from as far afield as Morpeth, in Northumberland, and Teesside.
Following a £1.28m expansion in 1989, Wavin Plastics became the biggest polyethylene plant in Europe, with a capacity of 23,000 tonnes a year and a £40m turnover.
However, the firm suffered falling demand in the early 1990s, leading to 110 job losses in 1993, which cut the workforce to 260.