Recycling centre boss jailed over ‘catastrophic’ fire

A firefighter tackles the blaze at Arcwood Recycling
A firefighter tackles the blaze at Arcwood Recycling

The Bulwell director of a recycling centre where a “catastrophic fire” which burned for NINE DAYS has been jailed for ten months.

Father-of-four Luke Barker, of Arcwood Recycling Ltd, was also banned from being a company director for eight years by Judge Jonathan Gosling at Derby Crown Court on Tuesday.

Barker, of the former recycling centre in Lows Lane, in at Stanton-by-Dale had already pleaded guilty to four safety failures which put people “at risk of death or serious injury” in the case of a fire.

He also admitted allowing fire-fighting run-off water to flow into the Erewash Canal, without an environmental permit.

Judge Gosling said: “This was not incompetence, this was a flagrant disregard for the law. You were motivated by profit and mercifully no death or injury occurred.

“The consequence of this catastrophic fire was that millions of gallons of water had to be deployed by the fire service, which ran off into the canal.

“A 6km stretch of canal was affected and almost 450lb of fish were killed.

“An agency had to be employed at a cost of £7,000 to move the fish that survived and the Environment Agency estimate their costs to be in excess of £200,000.”

The blaze, which started on September 15, 2012, and was attended by fire crews continuously for nine days, cost Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service £107,000. The court was told that 137 separate appliances were sent during that time.

The Environment Agency paid out £200,000 in minimising the blaze’s impact on wildlife.

The court was told how thousands of fish were killed and 7,000lb of fish were moved for protection.

The fire broke out in a pile of 8,000 tonnes of wood stored at the plant.

It was finally extinguished in late October as burning embers were buried on an adjacent site which is covered with a layer of foundry slag and sand.

In court, Barker admitted he had “failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk” to which people were exposed at the site in the case of fire.

He also admitted failing to take general fire precautions to ensure the safety of his employees and people visiting the site.

Arcwood Recycling Ltd, whom Barker, of Gaul Street, Bulwell, Nottingham, is the sole director of, was ordered to pay £15,000 costs and was issued with a £40,000 fine.

Gregor Purcell, for Barker, said his client had four children and his wife worked as a school dinner lady.

Mr Purcell said: “The company cannot be sent to prison but the defendant can. There was a danger to the public but thankfully no life was lost.”

The prosecution against Barker was brought jointly by Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Environment Agency.