After three fires at Buckinghamshire Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) in less than a week residents have been warned to take care over how they dispose of hot embers.
The HWRC at Langley was forced to close twice in the space of a few days after blazes broke out and Chesham also had to shut temporarily for the same reason.
The fires are believed to have been caused by householders placing hot ash in the waste containers.
Lesley Clarke, County Council Cabinet Member for Planning and the Environment, said: ‘Our staff were stunned by the fact that these three fires followed on so closely to each other, and we are worried that this could be repeated if people don’t take care when they are disposing of their waste.
Langley was also hit by a similar fire last year when a customer is believed to have placed a spent barbecue in the cardboard bin, so this is by no means a new problem for us.
The problem is that embers, often concealed in what appears to be cold ashes, can remain hot enough to rekindle a fire for several days – especially when mixed with other combustible materials.‘
The first blaze came at Langley on Friday 6th March 2015 resulting in the HWRC being closed around noon for about three hours.
The following Monday 9th March 2015 the same thing happened at around 4.30pm and the centre had to close early.
Two days later, on 11th March 2015 the Chesham site fell victim to a fire and was closed between 1.45pm and 2.15pm.
The Fire and Rescue Service attended all of the blazes. The fires caused about £2,000 of damage to the containers which had to be repaired or replaced.
On the first and third occasions the fires were only discovered after the waste had been left in the containers. At the second incident at Langley, site staff challenged a man but it was too late to stop a blaze breaking out.
Mrs Clarke added: ‘My message to the public is please take the greatest of care with any left-over ashes and make sure they are completely cold. On these occasions, we only suffered temporary shut-downs and no one was hurt, but next time we may not be so lucky.‘
Neil Boustred, Community Safety Manager at Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: ‘We have been called to a number of fires in refuse and recycling vehicles and at household waste and recycling centres over the years, and even fires caused by barbecue ashes scattered in gardens 24 or more hours after the barbecue was last used.
Ashes should never be disposed of while they are still hot as they can cause fires that put the people who collect waste and recycling, and who work at or visit household waste and recycling centres, at risk.‘