THE main blaze that engulfed a plastics recycling site at an industrial estate has been extinguished - but five fire engines will remain on scene overnight for hot spotting and damping down operations. 

The inferno took hold at Sankey Industrial Estate off Junction Lane, Earlestown on Wednesday morning, shortly after 11am.

At the height of the blaze, 20 fire engines were at the scene, working in intense heat as the flames raged.

By lunchtime a major incident was declared.

St Helens Star:

Fire crews at the scene (Picture: S Arnold Photography)

Crews spent more than 10 hours tackling the main blaze before it was extinguished this evening.

Five fire engines are expected to remain at the scene overnight dealing with hot spotting.

St Helens Star:

Thick black smoke dominated the skyline (S Arnold Photography)

A Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “Water bowsers provided by United Utilities to provide extra water for firefighting will remain on site overnight. 

“Merseyside Police will also remain on site overnight, with road closures remaining on Sankey Street and Junction Lane.

“A further multi-agency meeting is to take place on Thursday morning.“

St Helens Star:

The blaze sent an enormous black plume of smoke into the sky, which could be seen from miles away around the region.

The scale of the operation was underlined by the amount of organisations involved in a series of multi agency meetings.

They included Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, Merseyside Police, Network Rail, United Utilities, St Helens Council, the Environment Agency, British Transport Police, the British Red Cross and NHS England. 

ACFO Dave Mottram, incident Commander on scene, praised crews’ actions in immensely challenging conditions.

He said: “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.

St Helens Star:

“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.

"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. 

"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.”