Newton-le-Willows fire: Live updates as 20 fire engines tackle blaze at recycling centre

Billowing clouds of acrid black smoke from an enormous blaze on the Sankey Valley Industrial Estate in Earlestown have been seen across Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

Wednesday, 20th May 2020, 5:59 pm

The fire, which has been declared a major incident, can be seen from as far away as St Annes.

It is understood the incident happened at a recycling facility with a yard containing large piles of plastic pallets, all of which were quickly engulfed in flames along with a number of nearby trees.

The blaze then spread to the main building on site, an eyewitness said.

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Smoke from the fire visible in Newton-le-Willows

The fire is located next to the Newton-le-Willows Household Recycling Centre, which was immediately shut to the public.


Eyewitness David O'Connor spoke of the terrifying moments the fire took hold.

He said: "As we were driving to the tip we could see a big cloud of black smoke coming from the direction we were travelling.

Smoke from the fire visible on the beach at St Annes

"When we arrived we saw the fire at the recycling site next to the tip.

"The speed that the fire spread was tremendous. It just engulfed everything. Trees were self-igniting."

Parts of Wigan borough closest to the site, such as Haydock, Lowton and Ashton, are being directly affected by the huge column of smoke and residents there are being urged to keep their doors and windows shut.

The council has advised people to follow the advice being given by Merseyside Police.

The fire visible in St Helens, taken by Andy Langley

The smoke is drifting northwards and can be seen over large swathes of Lancashire.

The large amounts of burning plastic makes it likely that toxic chemicals are being released.

A total of 20 fire engines are in attendance trying to tackle the huge blaze, which Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service says measures around 30 metres by 15 metres.

Crews were on scene at around 11.15am on Wednesday.

Smoke seen from a garden in Lowton. Photo by James Standing

Firefighters are working in extremely challenging conditions with the heat being generated from the flames.

Tankers from United Utilities have been brought in to help increase the water pressure.

Emergency services evacuated a caravan site close to the incident, but there are not thought to be any casualties.

As the site is close to a railway line regional train services running along that route are delayed by up to 60 mins, operator Northern said on social media. The problems are likely to continue until at least 5pm.

Anyone with existing medical conditions in areas being affected by smoke should keep medicine nearby and call NHS 111 if ill effects occur, the fire service said.

Earlestown Fire

Last updated: Wednesday, 20 May, 2020, 20:33

  • The fire broke out earlier today at a recycling centre in Earlestown
  • It has been declared a major incident with 20 fire engines at the scene at one point
  • Smoke can be seen as far away as Lytham


Firefighting continues at the scene.

ACFO Dave Mottram, Incident Commander on scene, said: "We were called to Sankey Valley Industrial Estate at around 11am on Wednesday 20th May. On arrival, it soon became clear that this would be a challenging incident. Due to the enormity of resources required - 20 fire engines, two aerial appliances and two high volume pumps - this was declared a major incident at around lunchtime. I would like to thank our neighbouring fire & rescue services for their assistance during this incident.

"Firefighters have worked tirelessly to tackle this fire in what can only be described as extremely challenging heat conditions and I would like to thank them for their efforts. I would also like to thank our Fire Control operators who were inundated with more than 80 calls from concerned members of the public. At the height of the fire, the smoke could be seen across the north west. The latest information shows us that the smoke is now going straight up and dissipating, however as the fire reduces it may drop lower, probably during the night. We would still advise those living and working nearby to keep their windows and doors closed for the time being.

"As well as affecting a large quantity of plastic containers and a brick building on site, the fire also spread to a nearby caravan park, leading to the evacuation of those living there. We worked closely with our colleagues in Merseyside Police to ensure everyone was taken to safety and we are happy to report that no one was injured. We will continue to work with partner agencies to ensure those evacuated have somewhere to stay until they are able to return home. There will be transport disruption in the area, including to the rail network so the public should be aware that there is likely to be some disruption for some time. Motorists should avoid the area if possible.

"Firefighting continues and we will continue to have a presence for the remainder of the day and into the night. An investigation is being carried out into the cause of the fire but at this point we cannot advise of the cause. Local residents may have experienced problems with their water pressure but we are working closely with partners to ensure they retain water supply, thanks to them for their patience as we deal with this fire. We will continue to work closely with multi-agency partners throughout the remainder of this incident to end it quickly and minimise disruption."

The incident is ongoing.

Stay safe everyone. Thank you to everyone who’s helping tackle the blaze and stay safe!


My friends sent me a Facebook post that said they could see it from Wales


Latest  update …

Firefighting continues on scene. A multi agency meeting has taken place.

Latest information shows that the smoke plume is blowing straight up and dissipating, however we would advise those living and working nearby to keep windows and doors closed.

20 fire engines, two combined platform ladders and high volume pumps remain in attendance.

At the scene of the fire

The fire seen from Rufford

The fire seen from Haigh

Latest pictures from Mersey Fire

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