Greenway official praises fire response, regrets inconvenience

Greenway official praises fire response, regrets inconvenience
By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
It’s one day at a time for Jack Jernigan as cleanup continues for the burned-out Greenway Recover & Recycle in Union City.
“We’re just taking it day by day — that’s it,” Jernigan said. “We’ll worry about tomorrow, and tomorrow and the next day, and that’s kind of how we’re doing it right now. … It’s just cleanup, cleanup, cleanup.”
Jernigan, Greenway’s president of operations, expressed appreciation to everyone involved with fighting the fire that destroyed the company’s building a week ago and apologized to the community for the inconvenience.
“We thank everyone — the fire department, the ambulance service, the other towns that came (with firefighting personnel and equipment) — for all the hard work they did,” he said Wednesday afternoon at the site. “But we also apologize for the inconvenience, and I know a lot of people were upset. We do apologize for that.”
The Union City Fire Department responded to the fire at Greenway at 1610 North Morgan St. Ext. in Union City’s industrial park at 11:10 a.m. Sept. 13. Smoke billowed for hours as some 50 firefighters from six area fire departments tried to control the fire, but they were hampered inside the 60,000-square-foot building by very poor visibility from thick smoke and difficulty maneuvering around huge bales of cardboard and plastic.
Due to safety concerns, fire officials decided to pull back crews after already having fought the fire for several hours last Thursday evening. 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.
Union City fire officials have indicated the blaze apparently began when a baling machine caught fire inside the recycling center.
Firefighters remained on the scene throughout the weekend and into Monday with a skeleton crew to extinguish hot spots, with command finally officially terminated nearly 99 hours after Union City firefighters had responded.
The Environmental Protection Agency arrived at the scene Friday and a contracted crew separated smoldering piles and brought in truckloads of sand to cover the debris at Greenway.
Jernigan told The Messenger the EPA “tested everything and it’s all good.” He said there is nothing hazardous and nothing to be worried about, adding that the burned cardboard and plastic material “just stinks.”
Union City Fire Chief Kelly Edmison said earlier this week officials monitored air quality and confirmed no health hazard, but he is still awaiting a report regarding some fish kill in Hoosier Creek. He said authorities are leaning toward the possibility of it being an abundance of treated water going into such a small creek at such a rapid rate.
“It’s a sudden change in the type of water,” Edmison said today, emphasizing there is nothing wrong with the city’s water. “But when you get that much water into a small area with fish … it’s the same as pouring into an aquarium.”
City officials have figured a total of about two million gallons of waters — and maybe a little more — was flowed from start to finish during the Greenway fire.
Jernigan said Wednesday the EPA spent the weekend at the fire scene and someone from Greenway’s staff stayed with them the entire time.
“We stayed with them. There was either myself, my brother or some of the other Greenway employees,” Jernigan said. “We stayed here the whole time. We were here as long as there was some member of the EPA or the fire department or somebody … we were here.”
Greenway has a number of employees and Jernigan said the industrial park location had about 15 employees, which included warehouse workers and truck drivers among the personnel. Since the fire, several have been laid off, while some others are involved in the cleanup.
“For the time being, we’ve had to lay off several of them,” he said. “We’ve got a skeleton crew that’s still here, kind of just organizing the mess we have here and unloading and rearranging some of the trailers and trying to reroute some of this stuff directly to some other recyclers in the nearby area. That’s kind of what we’re doing now.
“The adjusters and different inspectors and what-not have been coming by and just trying to answer whatever questions,” he added.
Jernigan said the fire was a setback for Greenway and cleanup is currently the priority before any future plans are made.
“As far as the future — this is not going to put us out of business or anything like that, but it definitely sets us back, and we’ll work hard,” he said. “Our number one priority right now is to do whatever we’ve got to do to help get this place cleaned up. That’s our number one priority. Whatever the future holds, if we’re able to do something and bring back some of these people that we laid off, that would be great. If not, we’ll just see what happens.”
He said he does not believe rebuilding at the industrial park site will be an option, though.
He also confirmed he had been working with Union City’s code enforcement recently in regard to cleaning up some things at Greenway and he said they had been making progress “when this (the fire) happened.”
Published in The Messenger 9.20.12

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