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'There is a serious risk to people's lives': Concern after string of fires at factory

By Keri Trigg | Chirk | News | Published:

There will be a "serious risk to life" unless measures are taken to prevent further fires at the Kronospan factory in Chirk, campaigners claim.

The fire caused smoke to fill the air above Chirk on Monday morning. Picture: Mark Featherstone

The town awoke on Monday to a cloud of smoke, after firefighters were called to the Holyhead Road site at around 2am to a fire in the log yard.

No-one was injured, but crews remained at the scene into the afternoon and people from surrounding villages reported the smoke had spread for miles.

It was the latest in a string of fires at the wood panel factory, which last week had a decision on its expansion plans deferred amid calls for better regulation.

The company wants to replace two of its three existing power engines with gas models at the plant, but the plans were opposed by residents who are campaigning for independent monitoring to reduce dust, pollution and noise levels.

Chirk councillor Gareth Baines said: "The most striking thing is that it comes pretty much a week to the day after I spoke at the Guildhall against Kronospan's latest planning application.

"Last time gas engines were installed there was a fire with those.

"We are in a situation where we are averaging one major fire every year now.

'Alarming'

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"My background is in industry, and this is an alarming rate of major incidents.

"I understand what products they are dealing with and the processes they have got to go through, but to have one every year it appears there is a major lack of control.

"We have been promised before that wood stored outside would be dampened down regularly and that the silos would reduce the risk of fire.

"It costs money and is damaging their reputation every time this happens."

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Councillor Baines said people had contacted him from villages miles from Chirk to report smoke from the fire.

"There was acrid smoke all across Chirk all morning," he said.

"People were contacting me from as far away as Acrefair and Cefn Mawr so it is not just a problem that's contained within Chirk.

"It is a major fire and it is a major concern. I set off for work at about 8am, I live up by Chirk Castle, and you could see and smell the smoke from there.

"There is a serious risk to people's lives.

Monitoring

"There will be time to investigate the issue, but given the amount of smoke I don't think the council or Kronospan can delay independent monitoring any further.

"Chirk sits on a plateau, so to get to Cefn Mawr the pollution has got to traverse a valley, and to get to Acrefair it has got to go even further.

"Whether it is smoke or dust, both support the argument for independent monitoring.

"It should be a win-win. It should be able to show that Kronospan is doing what it says it is going to do."

Wrexham Council deferred a decision on the planning application by one month to allow planning officers to meet with representatives from the company to discuss the installation of monitoring equipment.

Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes said: "I have been in contact with Kronospan last week about organising a meeting and I will raise this and other environmental and safety concerns expressed by local residents at that meeting."

A Kronospan spokeswoman said: "A fire was detected in a long log wall at around 2am on the log yard at Kronospan Chirk and North Wales Fire & Rescue Service were called to deal with the issue.

"The incident occurred in an isolated part of the site and no-one has been injured.

"Kronospan apologises for any inconvenience caused to residents as the incident is dealt with."

Keri Trigg

By Keri Trigg
Reporter - @KeriTrigg_LDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Shropshire.

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