In a sorting and processing centre handling metal wastes, a fire broke out around 11:15 am on a 15-m high stockpile of scrap iron stretching over a 100-m length waiting to be processed. A crane operator working onsite sounded the alarm. The fire spread quickly, with flames reaching 10 m high, and the smoke plume was visible several kilometres around. Emergency services suspended both road and rail traffic. Fire-fighters encountered major water supply difficulties and had to tap a canal located 2 km away. They brought the fire under control using 4 water nozzles and 2 foam nozzles, in isolating the fire by use of a power shovel. The fire resumed at 9 pm. Fire-fighters extinguished the residual sources of ignition and spent until the following day at 4 pm clearing the site; afterwards, a specialised caretaking firm kept a close watch by making rounds. No injuries were reported and the centre’s 6 employees could be transferred to other sites. Extinction water was confined to the site by means of closing the valve on the sedimentation basin / oil separator at the time of fire outbreak; the site was covered by a layer of water reaching 20 cm thick in spots.
According to the operator, welding sparks generated from work carried out to raise a protective fence surrounding the rail tracks had caused this accident. A local elected official and the Prefect visited the scene.
The classified facilities inspectorate noted the site’s overall state of clutter, which was responsible for emergency vehicle access difficulties as well as water supply constraints.
The operator was ordered to have the extinction water treated by a specialised subcontractor and update its safety report by including, among other aspects:
- fit-out of the depot to allow for the rapid and efficient intervention of emergency services (e.g. management of unsorted scrap iron stockpiles, height limitations) throughout the depot;
- availability of water resources;
- protection of neighbouring uses, especially the adjacent company;
- protection of the inflammable liquid tank located near the grinder and designed to feed the grinder.