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Where was the 'early warning system' as Bulwer Avenue blaze took hold?

Where was the 'early warning system' as Bulwer Avenue blaze took hold?

Thursday 27 September 2018

Where was the 'early warning system' as Bulwer Avenue blaze took hold?

Thursday 27 September 2018

The systems used to warn the public of any health risk during a large fire have been questioned, with Deputy David De Lisle using last month's blaze on Bulwer Avenue as an example.

He used yesterday's States meeting to ask the President of Health and Social care why it took hours for a public statement to be issued on Friday 3 August.

The fire had taken hold in a recycling yard soon after 09:00 but a statement labelled 'URGENT' was sent after 11:00 warning that anyone in the vicinity who was affected by the plume of smoke should stay inside and keep their windows and doors closed.


Pictured: The first email sent to local media regarding the fire at Bulwer Avenue.

A second email sent after 13:00 said the smoke "did not contain chemicals" - a statement which raised a number of questions at the time. 


Pictured: The second official email sent to local media regarding the fire on Bulwer Avenue. 

Deputy Heidi Soulsby, speaking as President of HSC on behalf of Environmental Health, praised the response of the emergency services on the day in question. She also said she was unable to answer all of Deputy De Lisle's  questions as most fell outside of her mandate.

However, she said the Chief Executive of her committee is "reviewing any learning coming out of the incident."

Heidi Soulsby

Pictured: Deputy Heidi Soulsby.

"Officers from several States Committees, including the Office of Environmental Health and Regulation, were on the site quickly following notification of the incident," she said. 

"The risk to public health was discussed between the professionals on site, including staff from the Office of Environmental Health and Regulation, Guernsey Water, the Health and Safety Executive, the Fire and Rescue Service and the site operators.

"The media release was issued when the fire and rescue service started to extinguish the fire rather than previously contain the fire."

Deputy De Lisle wasn't satisfied with this and asked why a formal statement was only released after 13:00.

"The question is the delay in notifying the public and the failure of an early warning system, because Public Health sent out a release just after one o'clock in the afternoon, but the fire started around nine o'clock in the morning.

"Would the President agree with me that measures should be implemented to alert the public sooner?"

Deputy Soulsby said she could not comment as the matter was not within her areas of responsibility. 

David de Lisle

Pictured: Deputy David De Lisle. 

Deputy De Lisle also raised concerns about water quality, considering the close proximity of the fire to the Longue Hougue reservoir. Margaret McGuinness, Water Quality Risk Manager at Guernsey Water said, “ongoing daily testing at Longue Hougue reservoir shows that our drinking water remains safe and good to drink.”

Deputy Soulsby was also unable to reply to questions regarding penalties against the owners of the site where the fire had taken hold, or the results of any investigative review which could protect the public in future. Deputy Soulsby said the questions should be directed at Home Affairs.

Deputy De Lisle said that as so many reviews are being held following the fire, he thought one overall review would be better.

"Why not a comprehensive uniform review, across all affected agencies to ensure full joint accountability across government?"

The President of HSC said that may be the case in the future, but on this occasion multi agency reviews are being carried out. 

Pictured: Stu Carre's picture of the fire at Bulwer Avenue. 


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