Huge blaze at Birmingham recycling plant was started accidentally by disposable barbecue

The huge blaze was started by a disposable barbecue marked ‘NO FIRES’ Photo: West Midlands Fire Service

Footage released by WMFS showed incredible scenes of the blaze which could be seen for miles as thousands of tons of cardboard and paper went up in smoke at the Smurfit Kappa site in Mount Street, Nechells.

CCTV imagery has been released by WMFS showing the fire taking hold in a skip clearly marked ‘NO FIRES’.

WMFS fire investigators have liaised closely with West Midlands Police and said they are satisfied that the fire was started unintentionally. The person who dumped the foil barbecue tray believed the charcoal in it had cooled enough not to be a fire risk.

Drone footage of the huge blaze Photo: West Midlands Fire Service

With the country set to face a record-breaking heatwave, WMFS are warning everyone who uses disposable barbecues to do so responsibly.

Area Commander Sam Burton, who was the WMFS incident commander on 12 June, said: “Our crews responded quickly and did an outstanding job. They worked in challenging circumstances throughout the following week.

“Our investigators are satisfied that the Smurfit Kappa fire started accidentally. Nonetheless, in spite of our firefighters’ determined efforts, the consequences were catastrophic.

“This incident is a stark reminder about the potential dangers of barbecues. They should never be left unattended and never disposed of until they’re totally cold.

“Many of the barbecue fires to which we respond involve houses, garages and sheds. If you’re having a barbecue this summer, please take every possible care.

“Keep barbecues well away from property, fences, trees and bushes. The last thing we want is a repeat of this shocking incident or, even worse, people being injured or killed.”

A week-long operation took place to bring the fire under control

WMFS have posted tips on how to safely use barbecues:

  • Make sure your barbecue is in good working order

  • Never pour petrol, meths or other accelerants on to a barbecue. Some of the worst barbecue-related burns we see happen when people do this and the barbecue ‘explodes’ in their face

  • Always barbecue on a flat site, well away from property, fences, trees and bushes

  • Keep children, garden games and pets well away from the cooking area

  • Never leave the barbecue unattended

  • Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby for emergencies

  • Ensure the barbecue is cool before moving it

  • Use only enough charcoal to cover the base, to a depth of about 50mm (2 inches)

  • Only use recognised firelighters or starter fuel, and only on cold coals – use the minimum necessary and never use petrol

  • Never put hot ashes straight into a dustbin or wheelie bin – they could ignite the other contents or melt the plastic and cause a fire

  • Don’t use it indoors, in a tent or in an enclosed space. There’s a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, even when extinguished.

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