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Biomass On Fire In Yorkshire

June 4, 2014

By Paul Homewood





The BBC report:


Firefighters are spending a third day tackling a major blaze at a wood recycling plant in South Yorkshire.

Four crews have been at the R Plevin and Sons’ site in Crow Edge, near Penistone, since the wood chippings fire was discovered at about 08:10 BST on Monday.

Smoke can seen seen six miles (9.7km) away in Barnsley and smelled from Sheffield, 17 miles (27km) away.

People living near the fire have been asked to keep windows and doors closed.

The blaze could take another two days to put out, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said.


Station Manager Andy Hoyland said a water pump from a neighbouring brigade was being used to carry water from a nearby reservoir, to help extinguish the fire.

The blaze was "a big job", said Mr Hoyland.

Wood chipping fire

The blaze, which can be seen and smelled from miles away, involves a large pile of wood chippings

"It’s roughly the size of half a football pitch and about 20m [65ft] high. It will take some time to put out," he said.

In a statement, a Plevin and Sons spokesman said the firm expected the situation to be "fully resolved as soon as possible".

The company was working with the Environment Agency and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service "to minimise the risk of this happening again", he added.



Perhaps a word of explanation is in order here.

Crow Edge is about five miles up the road from us, and we regularly take our dog up on the moors there. In fact we happened to be up there on Monday afternoon , saw the fire engines and wondered what was happening.



Scotland 2012 099


Today, we can still see the clouds of smoke, and smell them.


Unsurprisingly, the BBC refuse to tell the whole story. The “wood recycling plant” is actually used for turning wood into biomass pellets for use at a biomass power station at Sheffield, about 20  miles away, and which is due to open soon.

Not only that, but this is the second fire, as there was another one there in April.



The Huddersfield Examiner, up the road, have a fuller story:


Pictured: Huge smoke cloud spreads smell of Crow Edge blaze as far south as Sheffield

High volume pumps from as far as Nottingham have been deployed to tackle the huge wood chippings blaze, which started on Monday morning






Fire crews have drafted in specialist equipment to help them tackle a major blaze above Holmfirth.

They are using high-pressure pumps from Nottinghamshire to fight a woodyard blaze, more than 48 hours after a pile of wood chippings caught fire, and are pumping water almost four miles from Harden reservoir at Hade Edge.

The firefighters have been working around the clock to fight the Crow Edge blaze, which has created a huge pall of acrid smoke that can be smelled across much of South Yorkshire.

They are trying to put out a fire in a smouldering pile of wood chippings at R Plevin and Sons in Whams Road, which caught fire at 8.10am on Monday morning.

The pumps enable 6,000 litres of water per minute to be pumped on to the flames and to reduce the potential for more wood chips to set alight.

Five crews and around 25 firefighters from South Yorkshire and Skelmanthorpe initially attended and four crews are still at the scene, due to the deep-seated nature of the fire, which is burning far below the surface of the huge stacks.

Palls of smoke can still be seen billowing from the premises, which are based at the former Hepworth ironworks off the A616.

Fire at R Plevin & Sons, Crow Edge on Wednesday

Fire at R Plevin & Sons, Crow Edge on Wednesday



The blaze is reminiscent of an earlier fire at the yard at the end of April, which took five days to put out.

A spokesman for the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “It’s going to be a long job. The wood chippings are able to generate heat so can make it tricky to deal with which is why we are using 6,000 litres a minute to tackle it.

“It’s also deep seated, which means that the fire is burning far below the surface.

“Residents in Sheffield and other parts of South Yorkshire can smell it due to the weather conditions that we had last night, which have encouraged it to spread.

“The smell of smoke is harmless but we are asking affected residents to keep their doors and windows closed to keep the smell out of their homes.”

An adjoining firm, Wavin, who make heating, plumbing and drainage products, have been allowing fire crews to use its water reserves normally used for the manufacture of the company’s clay pipe products. This will continue until the fire is finally put out.

“Although it has been confirmed that the smoke is not harmful, we are very much part of the local community and have been as equally affected as nearby residents. It is clearly within everyone’s interest to ensure that the fire is put out as quickly as possible,” said Paul MacLaurin, Wavin’s manufacturing director.

An R Plevin & Sons spokesperson said, “Efforts to bring a fire under control on one of our wood piles is continuing. The wood pile is isolated and breaks between neighbouring wood piles increased to reduce the risk of the fire spreading. The damping down process is expected to carry on for several days. 

"We would like to apologise to residents for the inconvenience caused and thank South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and the Environment Agency for their combined support. A full investigation into how the fire started will take place once the situation has been resolved”.




So two questions remain:


1) How much CO2 has been needlessly emitted from this fire, in the name of decarbonisation?

2) Why are the BBC so reluctant to tell the whole story?

  1. Paul permalink
    June 4, 2014 11:18 pm

    Beautiful, iconic image there with biomass blaze being fanned by the blades of a majestic stationary wind turbine (you can tell it’s stationary by the pall of smoke).
    If Carling did adverts for the utter pointlessness of renewable energy…………………..

    • Taz permalink
      June 7, 2014 4:08 pm

      Not stationary turbines…. they haven’t stopped spinning since the fire began and have only slowed down when the wind has been light. At a local meeting on Thursday evening the Managing Director of Plevin was unable to give us any assurances that this would not happen again. The plant is not even up and running yet but the company has been stockpiling wood since 2013 for use when it does start. The amount stored there at present is 100,000 tonnes – to put it in perspective we are told that is half the size of a football pitch and 20m high; and all just meters away from residents homes and gardens.

  2. John F. Hultquist permalink
    June 4, 2014 11:44 pm

    I’m not going to bother to look up the precipitation for Yorkshire.
    I live in a semi-arid location. My horses produce biomass. After it is quite dry I sometimes pile it up to later use as mulch. If the pile is taller than about 1.5 m. it will compost at the bottom. If I stick an iron bar into it and leave it for 5 minutes the bar becomes so hot you do not want to touch it.
    Some winters I pile it up (2 m.) into the shape of a volcano and pour a bucket of water in at the top. If I get the timing right and it snows then the heat melts the snow on the top and the thing “smokes” in the cold morning air.
    There is not much oxygen in my piles of horse biomass so I’ve never had one catch fire but in the USA spontaneous combustion causes about 14,000 fires a year. The science is well understood. R. Plevin and his Sons must have missed that lecture. Good luck to your Nation’s biomass fuel plans. This won’t be the last fire.

  3. tom0mason permalink
    June 5, 2014 12:10 am

    All those trees worthlessly felled for what? To add real pollution in the form of some and ash to the environment, all done in the name of CAGW and the great green god Gaia.

    Wasteful, stupid idiots.

  4. June 5, 2014 12:59 am

    I used to work in the logging and lumber industry back in the 1970s. Someone has not done their homework in building these chip piles.

  5. June 5, 2014 7:08 am

    Shirley incomplete combustion of timber must produce many toxic and carcinogenic vapours? The firemen will know this but not the media studies guys at the Been.

  6. June 5, 2014 7:13 am

    The site spell checker seems to have mangled my text. Shurley, medja and Beeb.

  7. June 5, 2014 7:34 am

    This fire is the tip of the iceberg. There have been many fires at wood stores and waste transfer stations over the whole country. It seems that the storage of highly flammable materials is not understood at any level. Fire breaks are totally inadequate in most cases and means for extinguishing fires almost non-existent; monitoring and control is also lacking. These stores are commonly in built-up areas (but not London of course).

  8. Joe Public permalink
    June 5, 2014 9:07 am

    Fire at wood-waste sites are common & well-known. There’s a HSE document “Safe collection of wood waste: Prevention of fire and explosion”

    Click to access wis32.pdf

    Just 3 months ago; “Recycling Director Jailed Following Wood Waste Fire”

    6 months ago: “Devizes waste recycle centre fire under control”

    In 2011 “Fire at wood recycling site near Heathrow Airport”

  9. June 5, 2014 9:13 am

    Reblogged this on vuurklip and commented:
    The law of unintended consequences! A pile of wood chips will self-ignite if it is over a critical size. Replacing coal fired industry with wood fired seems like a bad idea.

    The UK is replacing coal fired generation of electricity with wood fired generation. Much of the wood will be imported the USA! Sounds hare brained to me.

  10. Paul permalink
    June 5, 2014 10:55 am

    While we’re talking about spontaneous combustion always remember not to store rags soaked in linseed oil. Take them outside and hang them on the line. This is not a joke. Fires have even been started by tablecloths with cooking oil spillages taken to the laundry, tumble dried and then put into bin liners.

  11. June 5, 2014 12:29 pm

    Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    A strong warning for biomass promoters. Wood pellets are far from safe – they can also emit dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide if stored in confined spaces e.g. on ocean-going ships.

  12. Outraged permalink
    June 5, 2014 4:14 pm

    Who in their right mind decided it was safe to stock pile wood in heaps excess of 60ft . As for keeping windows and doors closed , that doesn’t keep the smell or the smoke out when god rind blows in this direction , it creeps in through every nook and cranny . No one from Plevins has been to see local people in Middlecliffe or Fox Holes to advise them or apologise for for what has happened AGAIN !!!

  13. Richard111 permalink
    June 5, 2014 5:24 pm

    Those wood pellets were in the open? Rain was allowed to fall on the heap? That is a recipe for compost. Compost will heat up. That is how forest fires start. I nice big pile of wet leaves and away it goes. I thought environmentalists understood this sort of thing.

  14. Doug Proctor permalink
    June 5, 2014 5:58 pm

    The problem is not storing the pellets in the open, it is not a problem of them getting wet. It is a problem of the wet pellets in enough mass to retain the heat of decomposition AND being kept in that state LONG enough to self-ignite.

    Waste coal piles will do the same thing.

    The solution is obviously to move the pellets fast enough to the burner to not have the problem. HOWEVER, if bio-mass “reactors” are to be run efficiently, they have to have a back-up amount of wood sufficient to keep them going through normal fluctuations of fabrication/supply sufficient for fabrication. Is that too long? Must the fabricators keep too much supply on hand?

    Smaller piles further apart is just an added expense. A faster fabrication-to-powerplant is what is needed to maintain profits and avoid spontaneous combustion.

    • Sleepalot permalink
      June 6, 2014 7:45 am

      Does this mean those ships carrying woodchips here from the US are at risk of catching fire?

  15. June 6, 2014 8:37 am

    Wood pellets are normally dried to prevent auto-thermal reactions, however they can easily become wet and then pose a storage hazard. They also produce a load of fines in handling equipment that are very flammable and even explosive. The mania of the AGW zealots is producing many serious technical and economic consequences that the media refuse to (or are not competent to) address.

  16. winter37 permalink
    June 6, 2014 6:56 pm

    The particulates in woodsmoke are smaller than from coal combustion,and do cause a problem to asthma sufferers. The Govt. ignore this in the haste to claim that wood produces less C.O.2 than coal when burnt,which is of course a blatant lie. As there is no evidence whatsoever that C.O.2 is a cause of so called Global Warming,and now supposedly the main factor in the ill-defined Climate Change mantra that they spout at the slightest opportunity, one has to seriously wonder if they are in control of their senses.

  17. manicbeancounter permalink
    June 7, 2014 12:43 pm

    Commentators have pointed to fire hazards at other places with wood chippings.
    There appears also to be a fire risk with recycled material stored at depots. In July 2013 there was an enormous fire at a depot in Bredbury, Stockport. This stored one tonne bales of paper and plastics for sending to power stations in Europe. The fire took over a month to put out. This youtube fire service video shows the extent.

    There had also been a fire at this Bredbury site in 2011. This the fire service managed to extinguish before the entire 6,000 tonne stack measuring 180x120x6 metres all went up. Although on t’other side of the Pennines, Bredbury is just 25 miles from Crow Edge.
    Another July 2013 example is at Smethwick in Birmingham. A chinese lantern set the entire 300x300metres site alight. The BBC did some fair reporting. It pointed out that up to 100,000 tonnes of plastic were stored at the site, 200 fire engines were on site at the fires height and 13 fire fighters needed treatment for (fortunately minor) smoke inhalation. They also point out the noxious fumes and the polluted run-off water.
    Further, the BBC reported that the West Midlands fire service had already dealt with 15 fires at recycling plants in the first six months of 2013. Unfortunately the follow-up was all about the obvious dangers of chinese lanterns, and not the fire hazard of storing huge amounts of inflammable material for recycling.

  18. June 8, 2014 7:36 pm

    Tried a new route from Oldham to Sheffield on Thursday, via Holmfirth, was astounded to find myself crowning a hill and suddenly driving through the enormous smoke cloud. I am asthmatic and I have been very I’ll since Thursday. I am apaulled that the last few days have been so difficult for me and yet there was nothing to warn me of the hazard I was driving into

  19. CAMEL105 permalink
    September 28, 2014 9:26 am

    Do you know wood dust us a Class 1 carcinogen alongside asbestos since 1995? And that waste wood is contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic cadmium copped chromium lead zinc. Also formaldehyde , pesticides, wood preservatives, solvents , varnishes , paint flakes , glass fibres and fragments, textile fibres, plastics , silica & more?
    Read this investigation into the waste wood industry and it’s monitoring system and decide whether the ‘smoke ‘ from these types of fires is safe. You can also leave a comment after reading.

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