Skip to main content

Developed and maintained by the NFCC


Impact on the environment and health

Hazard Knowledge

Fire and rescue services attending any fires in waste sites should be aware of two serious issues that can impact on the environment, the health of those attending the incident and the wider community.

Incident commanders should liaise with the environmental agency and public health agency early in the incident, to assess the level of hazard and agree a tactical plan to manage the hazards of:

  • Smoke plumes - waste fires can produce large smoke plumes that carry airborne particles long distances
  • Fire water run-off - the fire water run-off from waste fires is likely to be particularly toxic and damaging to the environment

Well-managed and regulated waste sites should have drainage systems fitted with pollution control features that can prevent or limit fire water or pollutants leaving sites or soaking away. These can assist firefighters in controlling the impact of fire water on watercourses and groundwater.

Illegal or poorly-managed sites may have drainage systems that discharge directly into foul water, storm water drains or directly into water courses. If a drainage system is present it is unlikely to have any pollution control systems fitted.

If there is no drainage system, or if a system is blocked, fire water may soak away, posing a threat to the groundwater. It may also create run-off, posing a threat to adjacent property and sites.

These issues are extensively covered in the Environment Agency and DCLG environmental handbook and National Operational Guidance: Environmental protection - Smoke plumes and Fire water run-off.