A huge plume of thick, black smoke billowed into the sky above Wigan after waste was set alight in a fuel tank.
Fire crews were called to the acrid pall which was visible for some distance around at about 10am on Saturday.
They tracked the smoke down to a yard on the Miry Lane Industrial Estate.
There they found someone had been attempting to dispose of rubbish in a bunded fuel tank but had not realised there was still diesel residue in it, creating a mass of smoke when it caught fire.
The crews were at the scene for around an hour to extinguish the flames.
Crew manager Gerry Davis said: "There was a huge amount of black smoke and we could see it when we got out of the fire station onto Robin Park Road.
"It looked like it was in the area behind the DW Stadium but it actually turned out to be on the industrial estate.
"Someone was trying to dispose of industrial waste with a controlled burning and it wasn't. You shouldn't be burning stuff like this."
The fire crews will now return to the industrial site to give some safety advice.