Chichester fire still burning a week later

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An arson attack has caused tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of damage in Tangmere.

A thousand tonnes of wood, which was to be recycled, was set alight at Tangmere Airfield Nurseries, in City Fields Way, on a site used by the Woodhorn Group.

Firefighters worked throughout the night to contain the blaze after they were alerted at 8.59pm last Wednesday (August 1).

And as the Observer went to press, almost a week on (Wednesday, August 8), the fire was still burning on the agricultural land, which was a distance from any domestic properties.

Site workers and fire crews worked to ensure adjacent buildings were protected throughout Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and also made sure the fire did not spread any further.

Site manager Nick Treagus, 54, has worked there for the last 11 years. He said: “We used a digger to put a fire break in, and luckily it hasn’t affected anything else.”

Steve Dummer, the fire crew’s watch manager at the scene, was full of praise for the way the site’s team had responded to the fire.

He said: “They did a really good job the staff here. They stopped it getting into the other piles and it was very good management.”

He added that by using a digger to separate the burning pile from other wood on the site, the damage had been limited, as it could have been much worse.

He also praised the safety procedures which the company had in place, which had stopped the fire getting more out of hand.

People at the scene were sceptical the fire had not been started deliberately. John Pitts, managing director of the Woodhorn Group, said: “It’s 100 per cent certain it was arson. A pile of wood does not catch fire by itself.

“None of our machinery was anywhere near where it caught fire. The only thing it could have been is deliberate.”

A spokesperson for Sussex Police later said: “Examination of the scene has established that the fire was started deliberately and police will investigate, with the fire service.”

The site was reopened last Friday for the green and garden waste recycling and was back to the normal routine. However currently the wood recycling side of the business is on hold. As they are one of the major recipients of scrap wood in the area, there are a number of firms waiting for them to reopen, and it represents a severe financial loss.

Mr Pitts added: “All of the wood which we would have recycled will now be going into a landfill.

“At the moment we cannot say an exact figure, but it has certainly cost tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage. And of course there’s the environmental cost as well.”