Essential information for end of life vehicle dismantling, depollution and recycling

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Auto Recyclers – Are you fire ready?

As a Waste Fire Tactical Advisor, Craig Newman offers advice on steps auto recycling facilities should be prepared for in the event of a fire, to ensure business is back up and running in the quickest time possible.


Auto Recyclers - Are you fire ready? p
Craig Newman

Craig Newman is a firefighter and fire safety officer for Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service with 27 years of experience. He is also one of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s Waste Fire Tactical Advisors.

The role of a Waste Fire Tactical Advisor is to attend larger waste fires on request of the host fire service and give tactical advice on how best to handle the incident in order to protect the environment, reduce the amount of time the fire service are in attendance and importantly for owners of waste facilities to enable their business to return to normal working in the shortest possible time.

In the UK, there are around 300 significant fires at waste sites each year.

Craig looks at the top 5 issues commonly faced by the Fire Service at waste fires and how to overcome them:

  1. Gaining access

In the past, site security was sometimes varied and difficult to overcome (think large dog loose within the compound!!) Whilst this is great for arson and vandalism prevention, this creates issues for firefighters once the gates are opened. Thankfully the issues of security at waste sites have changed with the advent of reasonably priced CCTV systems, some of which can remotely unlock gates through mobile phone apps. Gaining access to sites can promptly enable actions to prevent fires from escalating and significantly reduce the impact on the business, communities and the environment.

To help the Fire Service, businesses should consider using coded locks and give the details to the local fire service. It is important to remember to update this information if the code is changed!

  1. Quarantine area

As part of your Fire Prevention Plan (FPP), there should be a quarantine area of at least the size of 50% of the largest stack on the site; many sites use the staff car park for this, which is fine, as long as all cars can be moved. Should a fire occur during operating hours, often personnel can be offsite, and inevitably, their own vehicle could be in the middle of the car park/quarantine area, which could prevent its use. Fire Services may create a ‘muddy puddle’ in this area where on-site machinery can be utilised to make a trench which is then filled with water and used to quench items on fire.

Consider having a key safe for keys to personal cars so they can be moved should there be a need to instigate the quarantine area. 

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  1. Delays in getting to seat of fire/use of heavy on-site machinery

By the nature of automotive treatment facilities, there are normally stacked goods. Both access and hazards to firefighters radically changed, fighting a car on fire several metres from the ground. If this can be brought to ground level by using the onsite machinery, access is greatly improved, and the risk is reduced. Onsite machinery can also create fire breaks and can be used to create and move vehicles to the ‘muddy puddle’.

Consider having a system where your heavy machinery operators can be contacted to return to work out of normal hours. Using heavy machinery can dramatically reduce the length of incidents, sometimes by days rather than hours.

  1. Premises information

Most fire services can store information about sites; this can help the Incident commander formulate their plan taking into account specific issues of your site, such as water supplies and where any runoff water will go. Some sites may be near busy roads, motorway and railway networks, and the smoke plume will need to be considered. Premises’ information boxes are also a good place to store site information and FPPs, so they are readily accessible in the event of an emergency incident.

Consider your local fire service will always be looking for suitable training venues; if you have the capacity, this can be beneficial for both parties as the crews will become familiar with your site.

  1. Hot works

 There have been a number of fires discovered a few hours after a business has closed for the day. By the time these fires have been discovered, they are well established and will be more challenging and resource-intensive to extinguish.

Consider restricting hot works so that the last hot works are at least 2 hours before the close of business and that these areas are rechecked just before closing.

These five simple steps can help your business resume normal working as soon as possible should a fire occur at your site.

If you would like to find out more, please give Craig a call on 07899 066 055 or email him at

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