Warehouse Fire in East London - 12th Nov 2007 - Update
News from the LAQN

Just after 1200h on 12th November 2007 we were informed of a very large fire in east London within the Olympic games construction site. London Fire Brigade reported that 15 appliances fought the fire which was brought under control at 1623h. A plume of smoke was visible over large areas of London. BBC news reports can be viewed at:
Report 1
Report 2

As soon as we were informed of the fire, incident procedures were enacted in our operations centre that included rapid measurement analysis and increased data collection frequencies. Email data feeds were quickly established to both the Health Protection Agency and to DEFRA.The ground level impacts of the fire at LAQN sites can be divided into 3 incidents:

  1. Elevated PM10 particulate concentrations were measured in Eltham and Falconwood in SE London at around 13h. The two sites affected were Greenwich 4 (Eltham) where PM10 concentrations increased rapidly from 13:00h and at Greenwich Bexley 6 (A2 Falconwood) where concentrations increased rapidly at 12:45h. Peak PM10 concentrations at both sites were between 70 and 75 ugm-3 TEOM*1.0. The Greenwich 4 monitoring site is hosted by the Environmental Curriculum Centre (ECC) in Eltham. Bronwen Richards of the ECC said, `We could smell smoke at lunchtime and it came over so dark we thought it was going to rain`.
  2. Elevated PM10 particulate was again measured at the Eltham site at 18h when peak concentrations reached 76 ugm-3 TEOM*1.0. Both incidents at Eltham were investigated today by King’s staff. Again the grounding of the plume was noticed by staff at the ECC; Lucy Nettleton of the ECC said,` I noticed an acrid smell of smoke when I was leaving work sometime after 5:30`.
  3. There is evidence that PM10 particulate from the fire spread into north east Kent during the early evening. Elevated concentrations of PM10 were measured at the Sevenoaks 2 background site (Greatness) where a peak of 91 ugm-3 TEOM*1.0 was measured at 1815h. No evidence of the fire was seen at the nearby Sevenoaks 3 site (Bat and Ball); however, the Kent Air Quality Monitoring Network reported elevated PM10 concentrations across Dartford and Maidstone.
The airborne particulate in the plume was almost entirely PM2.5. Grounding of the plume was associated with elevated concentrations of NOX and NO2. The TEOM PM10: NOX ratio was between 1:2 and 1:3 (less than the typical ratio of around 1:8 from road transport sources). NOX was not associated with the later plume grounding at Eltham which may indicate cooler combustion as the fire was brought under control. A slight elevation (less than 1 ppm) of CO was also detected in the plume. No elevation in SO2 was detected.

Air pollution remained ‘low’ at all affected sites. The contribution from the fire to the daily mean PM10 concentration at each affected site is shown below:
  • Greenwich 4 (Eltham): 3 ug m-3 TEOM *1.3
  • Greenwich Bexley 6 (Falconwood) 1 ug m-3 TEOM *1.3
  • Sevenoaks 2 (Greatness) 5 ug m-3 TEOM *1.3
In each case the contribution to the daily mean PM10 concentration was considerably less than the EU Limit Value concentration of 50 ug m-3 TEOM *1.3.
Gary Fuller, of King’s College London adds, `The events of the 12th November highlight the important role that the London Air Quality Network and other regional networks can play in the assessment of pollution impacts from large fires and similar major incidents. We learnt a great deal from Buncefield incident during 2005 and a joint exercise with the HPA during 2006, but there is still an urgent need to formalise the current arrangements so that relevant air pollution information can be rapidly supplied to those responsible for incident management and health assessment`.

More Information

Item date 13/11/2007

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