The city's largest garbage transfer station has been shut down after being damaged in a fire yesterday. The blaze at the West Kowloon transfer station near Ngong Shuen Chau, formerly Stonecutters Island, put two of its four air scrubbers out of action. About 60 people had to be evacuated but no one was injured. Hundreds of garbage trucks had to be diverted to other stations or directly to landfills after the building was cordoned off for an investigation. But the Environmental Protection Department said the temporary closure did not affect rubbish collection from households and streets. 'We need to inspect the damage and do an assessment. We will reopen the station as early as possible,' a spokeswoman said. The blaze broke out at 11.39am in the ventilation system of the station in Ngong Shung Road. Firefighters arrived at the scene four minutes later. The blaze was upgraded to a serious third-alarm fire at 12.09pm because extra personnel were needed to search for missing people, evacuate workers and fight the blaze. Nineteen fire engines were sent, with four water jets and six teams with breathing apparatus comprising more than 100 firemen. Two ambulances were also sent. The fire, not believed to be suspicious, was put out at 1.20pm. Acting Kowloon West division officer Tsang Tat-ming said the fire had to be upgraded because the site was large and there had been reports of missing people. 'Due to the size of the facility, dense smoke and reports of missing people, we had to deploy lots of manpower to conduct the search and fight the blaze at the same time,' he said. The building has a floor size as large as a standard football pitch, but the fire scene measured only 10 metres by 15 metres. Mr Tsang said the exhaust ventilation system was located on the first floor of the two-storey building. The system, with four ventilators, mainly filters out the odour generated by the waste before emissions are released. Acting Secretary for the Environment Kitty Poon Kit visited the site at about 3pm. The West Kowloon garbage transfer station was commissioned in 1997 and is now operated by South China Transfer Limited. It mainly handles waste collected by garbage trucks from the city and repackages it into containers before sending it to landfills. It has the capacity to process up to 2,500 tonnes of waste a day, about one-fifth of the garbage dumped in landfills each day.