FIREFIGHTERS took several hours to bring a fierce blaze at a waste depot under control.
There was a huge pall of black smoke over the Grundon plant in Goulds Grove, Ewelme, as the flames raged on Saturday evening.
The fire is believed to have been caused by sunlight setting light to greasy rags at the hazardous waste transfer station.
A 200m cordon was set up around the site as the fire was declared a major incident by the emergency services.
Residents as far away as Sonning Common and Nettlebed were advised to keep their windows and doors shut as a precaution.
Ten fire appliances and several support vehicles were called to the scene. The fire was extinguished by 11pm but firefighters remained on site until noon on Sunday when management of the station was handed back to Grundon.
Benson parish councillor Pat Peers said: “We saw this large black plume of smoke coming up over the airfield and I went out to see what it was and you could see it was a large fire.
“It was really thick, black smoke but you could see the flames now and again.
“Fortunately, the smoke wasn’t coming over Benson — it was going the other way.”
Grundon managing director Clayton Sullivan-Webb said: “We would like to thank all the emergency services staff who attended the fire over the weekend for their constructive support and efficient and effective management of this incident.
“We would also like to apologise to any local residents who may have been inconvenienced by the smoke.
“This was mainly caused by burning plastic containers, solvent-based paints and oily rags and aerosol cans. It was a relatively small fire which generated a lot of smoke.”
The fire broke out in reception and was confined to this area.
“The rest of the depot and the vehicle fleet were not affected and we will continue to offer our regular services to customers,” said Mr Sullivan-Webb.
“CCTV footage from the site seems to suggest there were no suspicious circumstances.
“The very warm weather and intense sunlight may have caused waste grease and oily rags to spontaneously ignite.”
Oxfordshire firefighters were supported by colleagues from Buckinghamshire as well as Thames Valley Police, South Central Ambulance Service, the Environment Agency, Oxfordshire County Council’s emergency planning team, South Oxfordshire District Council, Grundon, Thames Water, the National Chemicals Emergency Centre and the voluntary sector.
Nigel Wilson, fire and rescue incident commander, said: “I would like to pay tribute to all those who played a part in dealing with a challenging situation in such a professional and effective way.”
The waste station is used to receive and store small consignments of waste, which are then sorted and segregated before being sent away for recycling, recovery or disposal.