Control the environmental impacts of fire-related incidents

Control Measure Knowledge

A joint understanding of risk should be developed with the environmental agency and public health organisation. Joint decisions will need to be made about balancing and controlling potential damage to the environment from fire water run-off, against damage to the environment from an unmanaged smoke plume, or from an uncontrolled fire.

It may be beneficial for statutory resilience forums and fire and rescue services to plan for a response to sites, which if involved in a fire may produce large volumes of smoke and require large volumes of firefighting media.

Multi-agency response to smoke plumes

Fires that produce large smoke plumes will require a multi-agency response, which should follow JESIP principles. This may include the involvement of:

  • Fire and rescue services, including:
    • Hazardous materials advisers (HMAs)
    • Waste fire tactical advisers
    • High volume pump tactical advisers
  • Environmental agencies
  • Public health organisations
  • External specialists, such as the National Chemical Emergency Centre (NCEC)
  • Local authorities
  • Police

The behaviour and travel of smoke plumes should be considered. The Met Office may be able to provide plume modelling, with map projections of smoke and ash behaviour based on weather and environmental conditions.

FireMet is a Met Office weather system designed to provide fire and rescue services with the latest weather information. This can provide immediate forecast conditions, while they are waiting for the Met Office to provide a more detailed Chemical Meteorology (CHEMET) report. It also provides three hours of hind cast data, as well as three hours of forecast data.

Information and advice should be used to make a joint decision about how to deal with the fire and smoke plume, based on the environmental and public health impacts.

Extinguish the fire

Joint decision-making about extinguishing the fire will be enhanced by the fire and rescue service sharing their tactical plan options for extinguishing methods and media, and the environmental agency providing details of potential environmental damage.

If significant smoke plumes present a risk to the environment, large quantities of water and resources may be required to implement an effective tactical plan. Fire and rescue service high volume pumps (HVPs), fixed installation pumps or pumps supplied by a third party, including those provided by environmental agencies, can be used to provide water for firefighting. Water may be provided by the mains supply or open sources; however, the impacts of usage should be monitored to avoid a loss of water supplies to the area or damage to ecosystems.

When using this type of equipment or when large volumes of water are being pumped, the appropriate environmental agency should be informed.

Removing or separating materials involved in fire

Removing or separating materials from a fire that involves a large amount of combustible material, may be an effective way to protect the environment. Using equipment to break up the fire loading can provide better access to seats of fire, enabling firefighting media to be applied more effectively.

If the fire and rescue service does not have appropriate equipment to do this, specialists or on-site staff may be required to assist with this task. It may be beneficial to identify sites where equipment to remove or separate materials may need to be used, and joint working practices agreed with relevant organisations.

If burning material is removed, it may be possible to:

  • Extinguish the fire using:
    • Water jets
    • Bunded pools
    • Tanks of water
  • Use a controlled burning strategy
  • Bury it, with the approval of the appropriate environmental agency and permission of the land owner

For more information refer to:

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions