UC fire call officially ends after almost 100 hours

UC fire call officially ends after almost 100 hours
By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
Nearly 100 hours after it began, a fire call to a Union City recycling center officially ended Monday afternoon for Union City firefighters.
Command at the fire scene at Greenway Recover & Recycle in the city’s industrial park was terminated a few minutes before 2 p.m. Monday for the Union City Fire Department.
The official departure of all apparatus and firefighting personnel came about 10 minutes short of reaching the 99-hour mark from the time firefighters responded to the Greenway fire at 11:10 a.m. Thursday.
“There may still be some wisps now and then, but Greenway should be able to handle it with their equipment,” Union City Fire Chief Kelly Edmison said this morning. “The main thing is keeping that stuff covered with sand.”
The fire at Greenway at 1610 North Morgan St. Ext. apparently began when a baling machine caught fire inside the recycling center, which housed a number of bales of cardboard and plastic material, according to the chief.
Heavy smoke billowed for hours Thursday as some 50 firefighters from six area fire departments tried to control the fire. They were hampered inside the 60,000-square-foot building by extremely poor visibility from thick smoke and difficult access maneuvering around bales of cardboard and plastic.
Due to safety concerns, fire officials decided Thursday evening to pull back crews after already having fought the fire for several hours. The roof ultimately collapsed and a spectacular blaze erupted about 9 p.m. after a back door blew out, igniting baled material behind the building.
As firefighters extinguished hot spots, the Environmental Protection Agency arrived at the scene Friday. Edmison said the EPA contracted a crew which separated smoldering piles and brought in truckloads of sand to cover the debris, with a skeleton crew of firefighters remaining on the scene to assist throughout the weekend.
The last two days, the fire department was down to keeping only a couple of firefighters at the scene while work was being done by the contracted crew.
The aftermath
Officials have monitored the air quality and confirmed there is nothing which could be fatal, explaining that any bad particulates were burned as they were released.
Today, Edmison reiterated there is no health hazard, based on information from the EPA.
“It just stinks. There are no dangerous toxins,” he said.
Edmison is still awaiting a report regarding some fish kill in Hoosier Creek, which runs from near the industrial park through part of western Union City. He is awaiting word on whether it was caused by run-off from any chemical or simply from an abundance of treated city water going into the small creek at a very rapid rate.
“You have to understand, per the EPA, they run into this quite often when it’s nothing but water run-off,” Edmison said. “It’s like with an aquarium. When you change the tank, you don’t just pour straight tap water into it or it will kill the fish. This is a small creek. We flowed about a million and a half gallons of water that first night (of the fire). That much just city water going into a small creek could have an effect on the fish.
“We don’t know yet, but we’re leaning more toward just possibly an over-abundance of treated city water going into a small creek,” he added.
City officials have figured a total of about two million gallons of water — and maybe a little more — was flowed from start to finish during the Greenway fire, according to Edmison.
He said cleanup is continuing at the fire scene, adding that Greenway has kept someone at the site continually since the fire broke out. Company president of operations Jack Jernigan has maintained a strong presence at the scene in recent days.
“They worked out there the whole time we were out there,” he said.
Edmison said he is very appreciative for all the assistance the Union City Fire Department received over the four-day period. In addition to neighboring fire departments which responded, many people brought food to firefighters and Obion County Emergency Management loaned an all-terrain vehicle which was helpful navigating around the water-soaked site.
“I want to thank all the departments that helped and 911. Plus, a lot of food came in,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of thank-you notes to send out.”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at cmenees@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 9.18.12

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