Wigan fire chief's fury at spate of dangerous blazes on track

Fire chiefs have hit out at irresponsible residents responsible for setting a series of potentially-lethal fires on a remote track in the borough.

Friday, 21st June 2019, 11:25 am
Huge plumes of black smoke visible from a tyre fire on Maple Avenue in May

Firefighters have reached the end of their tether following the most recent call-out to Maple Avenue in Hindley at around 11.20pm on Wednesday.

They found items including asbestos, tyres and furniture being burned, with an enormous plume of black smoke visible up to a kilometre away.

The isolated location is a major hotspot for setting fires containing noxious substances which present a significant danger to health, the fire service says.

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Huge plumes of black smoke visible from a tyre fire on Maple Avenue in May

It is suspected the spate of burnings, which has led to 12 call-outs to Maple Avenue since last October, is linked to people burning off material and then taking the raw metal to be cashed in as scrap.

And the fire service is hoping those responsible will soon feel the full force of the law after a group of individuals acting suspiciously were spotted at the scene on Thursday morning when crews returned to check the flames were fully out.

Details are now being passed on to Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Wigan Council.

Watch manager Mark Anderson from Hindley station said: “We are having considerable problems with people fly-tipping the most awful, nasty material.

“We’ve had asbestos, material from the roofing process which is clearly marked as carcinogenic, rubber. It’s incredibly dangerous.

“Last night we were there for an hour and because of the difficulties with it had to leave it smouldering. We could do that as it was in a relatively safe place.

“We had a call from a house a kilometre from the site. The smoke plume was very large and visible from quite some distance away.

“When we had mostly put it out and were driving back through Hindley the smoke was descending on to residential areas.

“It’s a big problem for us and a continuing issue. We’ve now seen some individuals at the fire and are passing on the information.

“There is a big potential danger for firefighters turning out. We have no idea what material is in the fire when we go and we have to assume the worst.

“We’re trying to raise awareness because we need to prevent this kind of thing. It’s not the only site for this but it is one of the worst.”

Firefighters were called to a dirt track off Maple Avenue just last month after an enormous pile of 75 tyres were torched there.

That incident took crews two hours to bring fully under control.

Firefighters said then that call-outs to Maple Avenue were becoming an almost weekly occurrence and the service has now revealed that Hindley crews have visited the area a dozen times in the past eight months.

Crews were also there in April after fly-tippers dumped a huge quantity of toxic substances, including cylinders filled with acetylene, on the track and set them alight.