Hundreds of fish are to be released from the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Leeds after the water was polluted by a major fire on an industrial estate on Monday.
The blaze a TradPak Recycling and Hazel Products has already killed many fish, with passers-by reporting shoals floating on the canal’s surface. But it is thought others face a better chance of survival if they are released into the River Aire.
Water used to fight the fire became contaminated with chemicals from the site and ran into the canal, affecting the wildlife.
The Environment Agency and the Canal and River Trust has opened lock gates near Canal Wharf, where distressed fish have accumulated as a result of the pollution.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “We are hoping to move these distressed fish from the canal tonight so that they have the best chance of survival.
“Some of the fish that have already been killed will of course also be flushed into the Aire downstream, so anglers and other water users should not be alarmed if they see them. Water samples taken throughout the day have shown that pollutant levels have already dropped in the canal, so the impact on the Aire is expected to be minimal.”
On Thursday the canal will be flushed with fresh river water to help improve the conditions.
Earlier it was claimed that the inferno may have been started during a burglary.
Around 100 firefighters attended the blaze at when it broke out at around 2am on Monday.
A statement on the Tradpak website said: “Early indications from the investigating officers suggest that the fire started whilst the site was being burgled and the area is being treated as a crime scene, further complicating recovery and firefighting efforts.”
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service group manager, Martin Langan, said: “I have been in the fire service for 25 years and this is one of the biggest fires I have attended.”
“It’s certainly the biggest fire that West Yorkshire has dealt with this year.”
He added: “Our fire investigation officer is on the scene and is working closely with West Yorkshire Police. Together they hope to determine the cause in the next couple of days.”
Demolition crews were on site yesterday to help firefighters gain access to the flames.
Crews are expected to still be at the scene today.
Paul Amaral’s furniture business, JA Upholstery, is two buildings away from the fire.
Mr Amaral said the fire hadn’t affected trade and most nearby companies were open again for business.
The smoke it not believed to be toxic but residents are advised to keep doors and windows closed.