AN INVESTIGATION is under way to determine the cause of a large scrapyard fire which broke out on Thursday night. At its height, there were more than 100 firefighters at the scene. Rosalyn Roden reports.

FIRE crews have now withdrawn from a scrapyard fire at Pimhole Business Park after tackling the blaze for more than three days.

The fire engulfed “a mountain” of crushed vehicles and mixed materials at Autosave, a scrapyard and vehicle recycling company located off Hurst Street.

Dozens of cars were involved in the inferno, which spread across an area measuring approximately 30 square metres by 15 metres.

The fire is also understood to have "very marginally" affected Xtreme Breakers, a car breaker firm next door to the site.

Fire investigators are currently treating the cause of the blaze as accidental.

A spokesman for Autosave said: "Following the fire that occurred on Thursday evening, we firstly want to apologise to the community for any inconvenience caused. We are currently working with the fire services to try and determine the cause.

"We would like to say a huge thank you to all the fire service teams for their efforts to tackle the blaze when they had strong weathers against them. The way they managed to contain the fire was fantastic. They have now confirmed that the fire is completely out and we can also confirm that there were no injuries and the Environment Agency have assessed the site and are happy with how the situation is being managed and that there are no environmental implications.

"Needless to say, this was certainly not the start to 2020 which we were looking forward to. As a family run company watching the events unfold were truly heart-breaking. We are now looking to pull together as a team and begin the process of a major clean-up operation and hope to get back up and running as soon as possible.

"We have received an overwhelming amount of kind words and support from the public, friends of the company, our loyal staff, local businesses and businesses within our industry. This means so much to us during this extremely difficult time and we cannot thank everyone enough."

A fire investigation team has conducted a site visit and held discussions with the incident commander and the site manager.

A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said: “There are currently no fire crews at the scene, but we are liaising with site owners to make sure there are no remaining hotspots.”

The spokeswoman added: “The source of the ignition is likely to be amongst commercial waste that is recycled at the site.”

Both the Environment Agency and Public Health England were contacted due to concerns about the pollution generated by the blaze.

At its height, 27 fire engines and more than 100 firefighters were at the scene responding to the blaze.

A spokesman for Breaking Toyotas, which borders the Autosave land, said: “Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service did a brilliant job in containing the fire and their hard work has saved my business.

“The fact that the fire crews responded in the way they did has stopped the fire from spreading any further.”

A team of firefighters from Bury Fire Station were among the first to be called to the scene at 6.14pm on Thursday. They were initially joined by four other crews.

Crews from across Bury, Bolton and the wider Greater Manchester and Lancashire regions were drafted in to tackle the fire.

Explosions were heard in the area hours into the blaze and the glow in the sky was being reported as far as Breightmet.

Residents were warned to stay indoors and to close their doors and windows due to smoke and steam emission.

Water in the area was also affected, with residents reporting no water or poor water pressure due to fire crews using the local water network to extinguish the flames. United Utilities pumped emergency water into the network to restore supply to properties.

The fire crew response was “largely scaled back” on Friday afternoon, with six engines remaining at the scene to dampen down ‘hotspots’.

GMFRS said that crews had done a “fantastic job” in responding to the “significant and challenging fire.”

Tony Hunter, Assistant Chief Fire Officer of GMFRS, tweeted on Friday afternoon: “Bury scrapyard fire being scaled down. Fantastic effort from Greater Manchester and Lancashire crews, our control operators at North West Fire Control, Greater Manchester Police, Environment Agency and HART team.”

He also praised Salvation Army volunteers who had provided hot drinks and food for fire crews and emergency service staff working at the scene.

Billy Fenwick, Incident Commander in Bury, said on Saturday night "Our crews have been working diligently throughout the day and we have made substantial progress. There is now very little smoke in the area. Firefighters are operating heavy plant machinery, pulling materials apart so we can really get into the heart of the scene and damp down further using handheld jets."

Overnight on Saturday, the number of fire crews working at the scene had been reduced to two.

On Sunday morning, a spokesman for the fire service told the Bury Times: “We are still in attendance at the scrapyard. We have scaled it down significantly.

“On the surface the incident does not look too bad but there is still lots of steam coming out. There is burning material about 10-feet below the surface where molten material from the compressed cars has welded itself together. We need to get into the seat of the fire."

He added: “We are working as quickly as we can to put the fire out completely.”

The last fire engine left the scene at 10am on Monday.

The Bury Times has made efforts to contact Xtreme Breakers.