AN investigation has been launched into the cause of a huge fire at a waste management depot in North Yorkshire.

At its peak more than 60 firefighters battled the blaze at the Todd Waste Management site in Thirsk Industrial Park.

Water was pumped from Cod Beck to help extinguish the flames.

A plume of smoke was visible many miles from the blaze.

Crews were yesterday still damping down the two-acre area containing three large barns with bailed cardboard, paper and some plastic.

None of the 50 members of staff at the £1.5 million sorting plant was believed to have been at work at the time.

Richard Todd, managing director of F D Todd & Sons, said: “We are very relieved that no one was on site and there have been no injuries. Our staff reported for work as normal yesterday morning and will continue to be fully deployed managing the business from our other sites in Malton and York. Our business capacity at Thirsk will be restricted for some time but the business will continue to function as normal. We would like to reassure the local community in Thirsk that our site is fully secure and the area is safe.”

After the fire started at around 7.20pm on Tuesday, local people were warned to keep their doors and windows shut. The police have confirmed that smoke from the fire was not toxic. Yesterday, a police cordon was put around the immediate scene of the fire.

John Smith, 74, of Sutton Road, watched from his balcony, which faces the industrial park. He said: “Some time after seven a large cloud of black smoke went up. I didn’t see any flames but you could see a flickering below it. It grew and grew and drifted over our house. It went over in a black arch. It was something that one does not see every day. I think every fire engine in Yorkshire was there.”

Another eye-witness, Katie Awdas, 30, said: “My husband and I live about two miles away. We looked out of the window and saw the plume of smoke. It was very surreal.”