A NEWPORT steel firm remained tight-lipped about the scale of a blaze at its Llanwern plant yesterday, despite the fact 70 firefighters spent 12 hours dealing with it.

Twenty-six fire crews were called to a “major” fire at Tata Steel’s pickle line operation at Llanwern Steelworks at 12.30am.

Around a dozen staff plus support workers were on duty when the fire broke out, but the firm said no-one was injured and there was no risk to the surrounding community.

Firefighters were on site for more than 12 hours as they tried to stop the blaze spreading.

Crews left at 11.45am after the fire eventually burnt out, but investigators remained for most of the day as they tried to establish the cause.

Tata Steel said the damage caused was still unknown and it was not known when the pickle line, which strips surface oxide from steel using hydrochloric acid, could re-open.

When asked, the company said it could not comment on the scale of the incident and what exactly was ablaze.

Llanwern residents reported a strange smell and claimed they heard alarm bells sounding at the steelworks on Saturday afternoon.

A spokesman for the company said he had no knowledge of any such reports.

The Health and Safety Executive said it was aware of yesterday’s incident but would wait until the outcome of the fire investigation before it decided whether or not to launch its own inquiry.

● Earlier this month we reported that the firm was to cut 115 fixed contract and agency jobs at its hot strip mill, which has been temporarily mothballed until next autumn.

The company employs 1,400 people at the site.


WEFIND it quite worrying that a major employer like Tata Steel remains so tight-lipped when a major incident occurs at its Llanwern site.

Not only did the incident in the early hours of yesterday mean the automatic deployment of 70 fire officers, it kept several of them there for many hours.

And given that staff have been told there was a “major” incident at the Llanwern plant, it seems to us that much more information should be forthcoming.

But the company has issued only the barest of details, initially refusing to even confirm which part of the plant had been affected by the fire involving hydrochloric acid.

No company likes to have publicity about problems such as fires.

But the fire service is paid for out of the public purse and the public has a right to know the detail of deployment of its officers.

We also find it odd that public reports of alarm bells and a foul chemical smell at the plant the day before the fire do not seem to warrant any release of information to the public.