Major fire at Shee Recycling centre in Birtley being investigated as 'suspected arson'

  • Report by Katie Cole

An investigation is underway into a suspected arson following a major fire at a waste recycling centre in Gateshead.

Northumbria Police have confirmed they are investigating the blaze at Shee Recyling, on Durham Road, in Birtley, which at its peak was fought by 60 firefighters.

The force was called to support the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service shortly before 11pm on Monday, February 7, and firefighters remained at the scene on Tuesday afternoon, having brought it under control.

Officers have since arrested a 19-year-old man on suspicion of arson and are keen to keen to trace another man who was believed to be at the scene shortly before the fire and may be able to assist with enquiries.

A major incident was declared by the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service during its response to the blaze Credit: Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

'Major incident'

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service declared a major incident on Monday night as it battled the fire with 60 firefighters using nine engines and an aerial platform.

It is the first time in four years the service has declared a major incident because of a fire.

The decision was made to make the declaration because of the site being just metres away from the East Coast mainline which was forced to shut for two hours.

There was disruption too for many homes and businesses which were without water.

On Wednesday the A167 through Birtley remained closed.

The situation has since been downgraded to a significant incident but the service said the site is now a "dangerous environment" with apparent "significant amounts of asbestos and other unknown chemicals".

Chris Lowther from the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

Residents in the area are asked to keep their windows and doors shut.

The fire service expects to remain in Birtley over the coming days.

What we know about the site:

The site of the blaze is owned by Shee Recycling and in September last year was issued with a court order by the Environment Agency and deemed  a "fire risk".

The order prevented any more waste being brought onto the site.

Shee Recycling was approached by ITV News Tyne Tees but declined to comment.

The Enviroment Agency said it was working with partners including the fire service to deal with the fire.

A spokesperson said: “We are working to identify and mitigate environmental impacts and offering advice and guidance on managing any run-off water from the fire.

"We have also deployed air quality monitoring equipment to assist the multi-agency response and to support the UK Health Security Agency in providing public health advice."

Appeal for information

Northumbria Police said CCTV enquiries and is appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

Anyone with information can contact the force via the ‘Tell Us Something’ page of its website or by calling 101 quoting reference number NP-20220207-1158.