A huge blaze which engulfed 100,000 tones of recycling was caused by a Chinese lantern, firefighters said this morning.
Ten firefighters have been injured tackling the dramatic inferno on an industrial estate in Smethwick, West Mids, which started at 11pm on Sunday night.
Thick plumes of black smoke billowed up to 6,000ft in the air and could be seen over 80 miles away including Oxford, Coventry and by hundreds of motorists driving on the M40 and M1 motorways towards London.
Shocked residents described 'apocalyptic' scenes, while West Midlands Fire Service said the blaze was the biggest they had ever seen.
Over 35 fire appliances as well as police and ambulance crews rushed to the scene at the J & A Young recycling plant, on Dartmouth Road, where they battled throughout the night to control the flames.
The smouldering wreckage of the gutted building continued to burn throughout yesterday as fire bosses warned the flames could burn all week.
West Midlands Fire Service received 400 emergency calls about the blaze and urged people to only call 999 in an emergency.
Area commander Steve Vincent, revealed it was the biggest blaze the UK's second largest fire service had seen in their 40-year history.
He said: 'We haven't evacuated any of the local residents because this is mainly an industrial area but we have had some minor injuries to some of our firefighters at the scene.
'We're working with other emergency services and they're all safely being treated.
'We will have major congestion in this area because we will be fighting this fire for the next few days.
'This is the largest fire that we've had in the West Midlands.
'It is a major fire and we've got support from surrounding fire brigades to help us deal with this.'
Witness Steven Bolton, 29, from Smethwick, said: 'It was apocalyptic - there was just a wall of flames that extended as far as the eye could see.
'I could make out this silhouette of firefighters against this orange back drop.
A spokesperson for West Midlands Fire Service added: 'The fire is believed to have been started by a Chinese lantern which flew over and dropped on the plastic.
'The lantern was seen on CCTV floating over the plastic recycling centre shortly before the fire.
'Ten firefighters have been injured in total - eight were treated at the scene for heat related injuries brought about by the intensity of the fire.
'Two have been taken to hospital - one for an eye injury and one for an ankle injury.'
West Midlands Police closed nearby roads and brought in the force helicopter to relay images of the fire down to crews working on the ground.