Byker on Fire

19 05 2011

This afternoon, amid the aftermath of the first Urban Design night out in a long time, I decided to take a trip down to Byker to get a MacDonald’s! In less time than it takes to order a Big Mac through the highly inefficient drive through speaker system, the sky was covered in thick black smoke. It looked as though the fire was coming from within the Byker Wall, but fortunately the source was actually Shepherds Scrapyard next door. There was so much smoke that it was even visible from Jesmond. News reports stated that the blaze could be seen from as far as 30 miles away, whilst flames reached 50 ft and smoke billowed thousands of feet into the air. Events such as these pose serious threats to the environment and raise serious questions about land use. See the picture below to gain an appreciation of the extent of the blaze.




5 responses

21 05 2011
Scott Gibson

I first saw the smoke at home in Bill Quay, Gateshead and first thought it was the scap yards down at Bill Quay Riverside, as there was a [much smaller] fire at one of them a few weeks ago. Then I managed to see it across at Byker, then later from Sunderland. Aside from the threat of explosions from gas cylinders, I always worry about the threat from materials such as asbestos fibres, which if airbourne could be a big problem.

With the recent fire at a scrap yard below the M1 motorway in London, there is an issue emerging first about the fire safety of scrap yards and second, where they are located. On the one hand, whilst they are very grotty places, they have a role in the reuse and recycling of metals and other materials; I used to go to scrapyards frequently to source car parts for my first car. The negatives are that they are probably the most undesirable places to be near and of course there is the fire risk. But in the end we need them – its just where to put them.

27 05 2011
Harvé Dhillon

I was not aware of the fire until my flatmates had told me there was one! They had drove towards the scrap yard to see the extent of the flames. I was even more shocked when I had heard the extent of the flames and from how far they can be seen from. It does raise important concerns and questions about scrap yards and the safety issues that are associated with them. As urban designers I think as Scott mentioned its where the best possible location for scrap yards could be. Nevertheless, undoubtedly scrap yards are one of the least aesthetically pleasing places in cities and towns.

28 05 2011

its rather amazing that the fire actually became a sort of an event. I was discussing with friends, and a lot of people went to see the fire, and the people were on the roads watching it for hours, infact someone told me that there were people selling ice cream and stuff.
But to actually have a counter view of what Harveen has commented, i agree that location of a scrapyard needs to be to be very carefully located, but on the same time they do sometimes can be an attractive area. If you remember there used to be a show on Discovery Channel ‘Junkyard Wars’. the interesting thing was they the teams in the show had to build cars, or machines , boats etc form the junk they had at their disposal, but at smaller scale one can definitely use a scrapyard as a place of inspiration to make sculptures, abstract art. maybe then the perspective of the scrapyard might change and be and aesthetically appealing part of the city…

30 05 2011
Scott Gibson

Shows such as ‘Scrapheap Challenge’ or ‘Junkyard Wars’ do show the value that scrapyards have for re-using materials, as do artist projects that use waste materials. Fundamentally, these more creative aspects of scrapyards don’t overcome their negative perceptions. Usually they are associated with underground and organised criminal activity, as depicted on many films and detective shows. There are, however, if you need to find them, places which can be very professionally run, offering off the shelf parts, especially for keeping older and classic cars running, for a fraction of the cost of new original manufactured parts.

2 06 2011

Also I would like to comment to this post with my experience with the Byker on fire, as I live quite close to the place. After seeing a huge black cloud and hearing a helicopter I went with my flatmates to take some pictures and have a closer look at what was happening. When we came to the place, even more interesting rather than the fire with the huge cloud were the `viewers`. We didn’t have to find a place with a good view on the fire because the best observing point from the Byker bridge was already full of people. The bridge suddenly became a kind of loose space with people chatting, taking pictures, eating sandwiches, ‚enjoying‘ and as was said before, there was even a guy selling an ice cream on a bike. The lesson from this is that even catastrophic happening can become a social event with people interacting to each other.

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