FIRE crews are still at the scene of a huge scrapyard blaze in Darlington.

Plumes of acrid black smoke could be seen rising into the sky around 5.30pm on Friday after around 50 tonnes of waste caught fire at the industrial site on Albert Hill.

Witnesses reported seeing the smoke from as far away as the Bishop Auckland area and Stockton.

A large crowd gathered to watch from outside the premises, understood to belong to Ward Bros.

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Speaking from the scene, Station Manager Craig Farrage, of Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue, said: "When I turned up the first message I got was 450 tonnes of mixed recycling and waste.

"When we got here we checked with one of the owners and he said it was more likely 40 to 50 tonnes.

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"We applied water from monitors and handheld branches. At the most we had five appliances here, plus the command support unit. We have been ferrying water so as not to overrun the hydrants so we can keep our water supply solid.

"We can definitely confirm we have had cyclinders involved. We have recovered two large O2 cylinders. We have recovered a large acetylene cylinder and a number of smaller LPG propane cylinders."

The body of an articulated lorry was involved in the blaze.

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An idea of how away the smoke could be seen. Photo: Shane Dew

"That was pretty much the centre of where our major issue was with the cyclinders," said Mr Farrage. "The cylinders were wedged under the back end of the truck, so it was very difficult to apply water from a distance.

"It took a little bit of effort to get in and put monitors on so we didn't have staff in the risk area in case they were going to go off. We didn't want anyone in the risk area then."

He said the size of the site posed its own problems.

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The smoke billows. Photo: Alexa Copeland (@EchoAlexa)

"The site itself is pretty much cleared, but there is still a large amount of stock on site," he said. "One of the issues is with a large perimeter like that we cannot fully secure it and we have had to have the police go round and make sure there is no other access points where people can get in.

"We think there has been a point across the far side where people have been getting in."

He said he could not speculate at this time as to the cause of the fire, but said it had been a fairly serious fire.

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Youngsters try to get a closer view. Police were called to secure the site as firemen tackled the blaze. Photo: Katie Banner

"Anything in the county when we are looking at five pumps plus it is a fairly large incident," he said. "But with this one it wasn't so much the size of the incident it was the fact that we had trouble with water supplies and we had to have appliances ferrying water in."

He said crews had the scene under control now.

"We now have a grab on site so we are able to turn the stock over. One of the problems we have with it is that until we can turn it over, it is fairly deep seated and there is not a lot of surface flame," Mr Farrage said.

"However, underneath it is still going and it's red hot. Now we have a grab in and can turn it over I would expect we wouldn't be here much longer than a couple of hours." 

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