Tipner fire: Lithium batteries 'the most likely cause' of huge fire which caused chaos across the city

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Lithium batteries are now confirmed to be the most likely cause of the huge fire at Tipner which caused chaos across the city over the weekend.

It is the second devastating fire in recent weeks where batteries are believed to be the cause, prompting a safety warning and a plea to store, charge and dispose of them correctly.

The scene of the fire at TJ Waste and RecyclingThe scene of the fire at TJ Waste and Recycling
The scene of the fire at TJ Waste and Recycling | Hampshire Fire and Rescue

It comes as the scene of devastation at the TJ Waste site off Tipner Lane can now been seen after 117 tonnes of domestic waste caught fire in the early hours of Saturday morning (July 6). Fire crew from across the county battles tirelessly all day Saturday and most of Sunday to contain and manage the incident with smoke visible across a large portion of the city. Strong winds created dense smoke across the nearby section of the M275, severely limiting visibility and posing a safety hazard to motorists leading to its closure for most of the weekend, having a huge impact on the road and the motorway network in and towards Portsmouth. A statement from the fire service said: “We recognise that the necessary temporary road closures caused inconvenience for many people over the weekend and we thank people for their patience while we dealt with this challenging incident.

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Smoke covering the M275 following a huge fire in TipnerSmoke covering the M275 following a huge fire in Tipner
Smoke covering the M275 following a huge fire in Tipner | Marcin Jedrysiak/The News

“We utilised the site’s proximity to pump seawater for firefighting. Multiple fire appliances were deployed to the scene which was instrumental in gaining control over the fire. As part of our environmental protection strategy, we implemented measures to prevent water runoff from reaching the sea.

“We sincerely thank our partners at the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary, Portsmouth City Council, National Highways, TJ Waste and Recycling teams for their invaluable support during the operation. Special recognition is extended to HANTSAR for their steadfast assistance throughout this challenging incident.”

The statement added that “the most probable cause is lithium batteries’, following on the heels of another devastating fire in Gosport where eight homes were damaged when a scooter with lithium-ion batteries caught fire while it was being charged at one of the properties.

The smoke inside the two-story building at TJ Waste and RecyclingThe smoke inside the two-story building at TJ Waste and Recycling
The smoke inside the two-story building at TJ Waste and Recycling | Hampshire Fire and Rescue

This has prompted the fire service to re-issue the following advice:

  • Avoid storing, using, or charging batteries at very high or low temperatures
  • Do not use if the product or battery appears physically damaged
  • If a battery is not holding charge, gets hot, bulges or you hear hissing noises – unplug immediately
  • Check with your local bin collection service as to how to safely dispose of batteries.

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Meanwhile the clear-up operation at TJ Waste & Recycling has continued with the company expressing its thanks to Hampshire & Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue, and to the public for their understanding and patience over the weekend during this unprecedented incident’. 

The statement added: “There is an increasing trend of lithium batteries being discarded incorrectly by users. The batteries, which charge electrical devices such as mobile phones, vapes and e-bikes, can be explosive and, due to ‘thermal runaway’, cannot be extinguished easily because the heat is so ferocious.

“It is important that the Tipner site is operational as soon as possible because the materials recovering facility, where a large amount of commercial and domestic waste is sorted and recycled, is a vital part of the regional resource and waste management supply chain.”

Those closest to the fire were also able to return to normal today with the neighbouring The Harbour School able to open as normal and Portsmouth Harbour Cruising Club escaping damage.

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Fire crews used seawater to help contain the fireFire crews used seawater to help contain the fire
Fire crews used seawater to help contain the fire | Hampshire Fire and Rescue

Club secretary Sally May said: “Luckily for the club the wind was blowing away from our premises so there was no damage cause by the smoke. The fire brigade did use our club site to gain access at first but the fast actions of the fire brigade in controlling the fire also reduced any risk to our property. Apart from loosing electrical power for two days which caused us some issues we have been very fortunate.”

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