THE response time of authorities to a major fire at Chirk’s Kronospan site last week came under the microscope at an emergency meeting on Thursday.

Representatives from authorities including Natural Resources Wales, Public Health Wales, Wrexham County Borough Council and Kronospan attended, while there were more than 80 Chirk residents.

Questions from members of the public and Chirk town councillors were put forward to the authorities as well as Kronospan representative Mike McKenna, about the impact of the four-day long blaze at the factory which began in the early hours of Monday morning.

The fire continued to burn until Thursday, with children being kept indoors at school on Wednesday and Thursday and locals being told to shut their doors and windows.

Residents also stated they were unhappy with the factory’s lack of communication with the public.

Maes Y Waun resident Phil Roberts voiced his concerns with the time it took to advise schools to keep children indoors during the time of the fire.

“The sad thing about tonight’s meeting, is that we could’ve been sat here 30 years ago, 20 years ago or 10 years ago – our kids would have been taken off the playground in those days,” he said.

“We do not trust Kronospan, because they’re not up front. It would have taken two minutes to ring the school [and advise them to keep children indoors].

“We should not put our children’s lives at risk – they have a right to breathe clean air.”

Resident Mike Bowen raised concerns over the stockpiled logs which are believed to have been the source of the blaze, and called for permanent monitoring of the pollution levels around the site.

He said: “The logs should be kept away from water, so they’re permanently dried out and will not start heating up.

“On top of that, there should be permanent monitoring of the air around Kronospan, monitored by a separate organisation.

“And if an incident occurs, it triggers Wrexham Council to start a process, by which emergency procedures are put in place.

“Not waiting until two days later when we’re calling them and they’re telling us they’ll respond in two to three days – it’s not good enough.”

Concerns over health were put to the panel of representatives from relevant authorities, with Councillor Terry Evans concerned over the smell of formaldehyde in the air during the fire.

Public Health Wales representative Doctor Huw Brunt said that although the usual quality of the air in Chirk is good, it had deteriorated during the fire.

He said: “The air quality outside of this incident in the locality complies with health-based standards.

“Small amounts of irritants including formaldehyde have been detected, but we would expect that in anything that’s burning.”

Cllr Gareth Baines questioned the competence of those working on the factory’s behalf to respond to the incident.

“If I was in my position and had an incident like this one at Kronospan, my board of directors would sack me,” he said.

“With that in mind, does Kronospan think that the three incidents in as many years reflects its competence?”

Kronospan chairman, Mr McKenna responded by saying: “I think we’re a very competent organisation, but like every organisation there are certain weaknesses.”

Mr McKenna began the meeting by expressing his regret that the fire had occurred and the impact it has had on residents.

He added: “Clearly we wanted to bring the incident to a close as quickly as possible with minimum impact on the community, and I don’t think anyone can criticise us for that.

“Hopefully the actions that we took have brought this incident to a faster close than would have otherwise been the case.

“We will start to conduct a full inquiry into the fire, once the incident has been concluded and the fire crews have stood down.

“There has been criticism over the level of communication with the community while this incident has taken place.

“We issued five press statements, with all of them in agreement with North Wales Fire Service.

“While we will review in due course whether that level of communication was right, we do not have access to all local Facebook groups, and given the intense interest, we decided to concentrate on the mainstream media to keep people updated.”

He went on to say that the factory having three fires in as many years is not where it wants to be.

Mr McKenna also denied suggestions on social media that the fire involved manufactured MDF board.

Other concerns from residents included the smell of smoke which has got into their homes and cars, with Cllr Baines asking Kronospan how they will help residents to resolve this.

Some in attendance complained their health had been affected by the fumes, with people suffering from coughs, sore throats and shortness of breath.

Cllr Jackie Allen also suggested health monitoring in the aftermath of the fire for people in the area, and advice about how they can rid their houses of the smell.

Cllr Evans added he had been told two children were taken to hospital as a result of the fire, and that two guinea pigs had died.

Residents of Chirk will have the chance to share their concerns with Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes on Saturday when he will be at Chirk Parish Hall to discuss the fire from 9am until 5pm.

Anyone wishing to attend is asked to email