FIREFIGHTERS warned of ‘potentially toxic smoke’ after a large fire broke out at the Nuffield Industrial Estate yesterday.

Some 600 tonnes of rubbish at recycling centre W&S Recycling in Kennington Road set ablaze in the early afternoon - the second serious fire at the site in just over a year.

Nearby businesses were evacuated and a large cordon was established.

A plume of thick, dark smoke could be seen from as far away as Corfe Castle.

Around 70 firefighters have been at the scene battling the blaze. Ten engines and two water carriers were called to the site when the fire broke out shortly after noon.

Three engines from Poole, a Land Rover pump from Hamworthy, an appliance from Westbourne, two engines from Wimborne and one from Redhill Park were among those at the industrial estate.

Water carriers from Poole and Hampshire were also requested at the height of the incident.

No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Fire crews were initially expected to remain at the site throughout the night in case hot spots flare up and cause further ignition. However, the incident closed at 8.30pm.

There has been no further information as to whether the smoke was toxic.

It is the second large blaze at W&S Recycling in 13 months. Firefighters were called to a fire involving 300 tonnes of rubbish in April 2017.

Speaking at the scene to the Daily Echo, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) incident commander Richard Coleman, said: “It is a very large pile of mixed waste -there are mattresses, things that have come out from skips, household waste.

“The estimate is 600 tonnes, but this figure is always going to be a bit difficult to tell.

“Imagine that very large pile is burning; and although you can squirt water on it, the fire gets in and amongst it. So the only real tactic you can employ is to pick it up and break it into pieces.

“There is a giant grab being operated by the company - which is doing a brilliant job - and we’re putting out the fire in piles they are picking up, and they are dropping them somewhere else.

“We are slowly taking big bites out of it.”

Workers on the industrial estate sent images of the smoke and flames to the Echo.

Toby Bell said he first spotted a plume of dark smoke while taking a quick break at around noon.

“At its height you could see flames over the top of buildings," he said.

“Even when they seemed to have it all under control, the smoke reached about 100 feet high.”

Matt Arnold, of GM Auto Services, said people working near the scene were told to leave the area until the fire was extinguished.

At around 12.40pm, he said: “Our workshop is right behind W&S.

“The fire’s pretty big, but the smoke is turning white, so hopefully that means they’re on the way to putting it out.

“It’s the second time in a year or so that this has happened. I think the first fire was massive as well.”

Fears the smoke could be harmful were reported at around 12.50pm.

Police at the scene decided to extend the cordon due to firefighters’ concerns, and a spokesperson at the scene said: “The smoke could potentially be toxic.”

A witness told the Daily Echo: “It was acrid, thick smoke.

“We’ve all been moved back now but it’s a bit unnerving to be honest.”

Dorset Reclaim manager Kirsty Worth, who was among those told to go back inside, said: “I was making lunch for the Dorset Reclaim volunteers and I thought, what is that smell?’ “When I looked out the whole thing was going up. It went up pretty swiftly.

W&S, which was initially registered as Weymouth and Sherborne Recycling, has been in operation since the 1980s. The firm operates a number of household recycling centres in Dorset, including at Mannings Heath and in Brook Road, Wimborne, Candys Lane, Corfe Mullen and and Wilverley Road, Christchurch.