Pupils at a Darlington school are being sent home after smoke from a nearby fire got so bad it began to affect kids’ breathing.

Harrowgate Hill Primary School said it had been forced to shut as “the air quality and smell in the building is so bad that it is beginning to affect both children and staff and for a number affecting their breathing”.

The school is just 700m away, as the crow flies, from the Drinkfield tip where thick and pungent smoke is rising.

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The Northern Echo:

Firefighters have been there since 5.10am tackling an inferno and have already told residents and businesses nearby to keep windows and doors shut, and to avoid the area.

The Northern Echo: Harrowgate Hill Primary School in Darlington.Harrowgate Hill Primary School in Darlington. (Image: Sarah Caldecott, Newsquest)

In a post on Facebook, the school said: “As you are all aware there is a fire at the recycling centre.

“Despite following public health advice and closing windows the air quality and smell in the building is so bad that it is beginning to affect both children and staff and for a number affecting their breathing.

“The Fire Chief has explained this will be the situation all day.  We have spoken to Public Health and the Local Authority to let them know that we will be regrettably closing for the remainder of the day.

“We apologise for the inconvenience we know this will cause but please can you collect your children as soon as possible. The school gate will be open and parents should collect from class doors.”

Our reporter at the scene Kayleigh Fraser said: “There’s a very very strong smell and it feels like it’s burning your throat.”

Darlington Council described the closure as a “precautionary measure” saying, “there is no immediate risk to the school”.

The Northern Echo:

A spokesperson said earlier that environmental health officers were working with the environment agency and the tip will remain closed.

Phil Innis, group manager at the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said earlier: “We are concerned about the smoke plume and we want to make sure people have the correct information.

“We are advising residents to keep their doors and windows closed if they are affected by the plume.”

A fire service spokesperson added: “We were called at around 5.11am today (May 22) to a fire at the recycling centre on Whessoe Road in Darlington.

“Three fire engines from Darlington and Newton Aycliffe Fire Stations are in attendance. The water bowser from Spennymoor Fire Station and the aerial ladder platform from Darlington have also been called to the scene.

The Northern Echo:

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“The incident is ongoing and is likely to go on for some time.”

One resident told the Echo: “I woke up at 6.15am and it already started smoking.

"The wind is browning the other direction towards Longfield School and the houses on Whessoe road so I could not smell it."