COUNTY firefighters have been fighting one of the biggest blazes of their careers after they were called to help out at the massive fire in Smethwick.

Crews from Malvern, Droitwich and Bewdley were part of a team of about 200 firefighters which tackled the blaze at a recycling plant in Smethwick, West Midlands, which was caused by a Chinese lantern.

Guy Palmer, station commander at Evesham and Malvern, was one of the officers called out to help as a flexi-duty officer.

“I arrived at 9am on Monday to take over from the station commander on duty,” he said.

“The flexi-duty officer ensures the teams follow the processes we need to under health and safety and integrate with the West Midlands Fire Service policy.

“We were predominantly working at the front, supplying three fire jets and we also had two appliances at the rear supplying jets and a hydraulic platform.”

The blaze saw about 100,000 tons of recycled plastic and paper destroyed. At its height the fire sent a plume of smoke 6,000ft into the sky.

Commander Palmer said: “It was a large incident and inevitably logistics are key. While it may look dramatic as you initially arrive you have to think that this is going to affect a lot of businesses over the next few days.

“From the number of pumps there it was one of the biggest incidents I have attended.”

The size of the incident has raised questions about the fire services’ ability to respond to such major incidents while maintaining public safety following Government cuts.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, highlighted the fact that fire engines were called from as far away as Malvern, nearly 40 miles from the scene of the fire.

“Firefighters have done a fantastic job in fighting this massive fire and deserve nothing but praise.

“But the Smethwick fire stretched the service to its absolute breaking point.

“Those involved in fighting the fire have made it clear that Government cuts have hampered their ability to deal with major incidents which may have massive consequences for public safety.”