No health hazard to area residents from fire — official

No health hazard to area residents from fire — official
By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
It’s been a long weekend at the charred ruins of Greenway Recover & Recycle in Union City’s industrial park.
But the situation is improving and there is no health hazard to the community, a fire official said today.
Smoke is continuing to rise from the ashes of the Greenway property at 1610 North Morgan St. Ext., where Union City firefighters initially responded to a fire at 11:10 a.m. Thursday.
The fire apparently began when a baling machine caught fire inside the recycling center, which housed a huge number of bales of cardboard and plastic material, Union City Fire Chief Kelly Edmison reported.
Heavy smoke billowed for hours Thursday afternoon and evening as some 50 firefighters from six area fire departments desperately tried to control the blaze.
Firefighters were hin-dered inside the structure by extremely poor visibility from the thick smoke and difficult access maneuver-ing around bales of card-board and plastic.
As firefighters worked, Greenway co-owner and  president of operations Jack Jernigan remained on site and watched the operation with employees. Union City’s code enforcement also stopped by the scene and, according to city officials, had been working with Greenway recently to resolve some issues.
Fire officials ultimately made the difficult decision Thursday evening to pull back fire crews after already having fought the blaze for several hours, largely due to safety concerns.
A spectacular blaze which was visible for miles erupted about 9 p.m. Thursday after a back door blew out, igniting a huge amount of baled material behind the building. It created an eerie glow and a plume of billowing smoke in the late-night sky and resulted in a smoky haze which lingered in the air Friday.
The Environmental Protection Agency arrived at the scene Friday and Edmison said the EPA hired a contracting crew which has been bringing in truckloads of sand to cover the ruins, where some hot spots remain.
“Water itself is not going to put it out,” Edmison said, adding that even when the massive bales of cardboard and plastic are wet on the outside, they continue to burn deep within.
He said the contract crews have been pulling down the building and separating the smoldering piles as they cover the debris with sand. Firefighters have remained on the scene throughout the weekend to assist, but the chief said it has been difficult for firetrucks to maneuver in the water-soaked lot and one truck had to be towed out.
Edmison said officials have also monitored the air quality and have confirmed there is nothing which could be fatal.
“It just stinks,” he said. “Any bad particulates in the fire are getting burned at the time they’re being released. We have been getting some calls (from residents), but there’s not a lot you can do.”
He said the weekend rain didn’t help much with the fire itself, but it did help push the particulates down, lessening the smoke and the smell.
Firefighters will be on the scene again today to assist and Edmison said the Union City Fire Department has been keeping someone there at night to monitor the scene. He hopes the remaining few hot spots will be gone in the next couple of days.
“It’s getting better,” he said. “There are still a few spots, but nothing like it was a few days ago.”
Published in The Messenger 9.17.12

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