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Airfield blaze caused by large pile of burning rubbish

Silloth Airfield fire. Picture: Carlisle East Fire Station

A senior firefighter involved in tackling a fire at a former World War Two hangar says the blaze involved a hangar filled with 200 tonnes of domestic waste.

Phil Stannett, duty station manager for Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service in the west of the county, said the fire at Silloth Airfield was extinguished by 8pm last night.

The blaze started shortly after 4pm on Tuesday and at its height involved six appliances and 35 firefighters.

Firefighters will now monitor the scene during the next 24-48 hours but resources left the scene last night.

Phil said the sheer volume of domestic waste, which was in the process of being recycled, was essentially a 200-tonne pile of rubbish.

The senior firefighter estimates that the airfield – about 70 metres in length and 30 metres wide – was about half full with waste, of which about 30 tonnes was on fire.

Due to the heat of the waste inside the hangar, about 100 tonnes of waste was removed by firefighters.

Silloth Airfield fire. Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service

“It is 200 tonnes piled on top of each other and it just gets hotter and hotter,” said Phil.

“It always happens with organic material during the breakdown process if you have a large volume that is too well insulated.

“If you leave a compost heap of two or three tonnes for a week, the heat can dissipate, but if you have 100 tonnes and it is left for a long time, it won’t cool down and the heat will keep on building.”

The fire was not as serious as it first appeared but required a substantial response from firefighters.

Silloth Airfield fire. Picture: Carlisle East Fire Station

“It was not that violent, but it was a lot of material smouldering,” continued Phil.

“There was no damage done to the building, which was a former World War Two hangar.

“It was 200 tonnes of waste that started the fire, which is why it took so many appliances.”

There were no risks to the public, the firefighter said, with the main concern initially revolving around the potential air pollution caused if the blaze escalated further.

Concerns were also raised about the run-off of water used to extinguish the fire, but with the help of the operators of the site, this was managed effectively.

Mr Stannett praised the operators on scene for their help in dealing with the incident.