JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Officials are investigating what sparked a massive overnight fire at a Jersey City recycling plant.
The blaze broke out around 10 p.m. Monday at Sims Metal Management Company on Linden Avenue. The fire was concentrated in a stockpile of debris in a scrap metal receiving area, officials said.
Crews had to use huge cranes, forklifts and a conveyor belt to maneuver scraps in order to extinguish the flames. A Jersey City fire boat was also used to pour water on the fire.
“Because metal burns very hot and doesn’t burn away like wood does,” Jersey City Director of Public Safety James Shea told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang. “They’ve basically had to take that stack apart piece by piece and put out individual fires, move to the side and start the process again.”
Dark plumes of smoke filled the air for hours and could be seen for miles. The fire was finally brought under control Tuesday morning.
The fire department is performing air quality tests, but said there’s no reason to believe the material or smoke is hazardous.
Mayor Steven Fulop is now calling for a full investigation into the blaze. He said Sims employees waited too long to call 911 and tried to put out the fire on their own.
“Obviously if there’s a fire, they should be calling the Jersey City Fire Department, not trying to deal with it themselves because they’re scared or concerned about other ramifications,” Fulop told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg. “I think it’s probably related to them not wanting to deal with the consequences — investigations, fines, penalties.”
He said the call to emergency responders came from the Coast Guard out on the harbor after seeing the flames shooting up from the plant.
Fulop said he believes the facility may have failed to properly screen for flammable materials.
“Seeing this happen again in a couple of months or a couple of years is probably not the best course of action,” he said. “I’ve only been in office for two months, but I think it’s appropriate to say we are going to revisit the overall relationship there and how we deal with this.”
Officials also said this isn’t the first fire at the recycling plant.
“In years past, we’ve experienced some of the same things here,” said Jersey City Fire Department Chief Darren Rivers. “This is not new to us. We’ve been here over the past 10 years at least 10, 20 times for fires such as this.”
In 2010, a 50-foot pile of metal and plastic burned at the plant for 12 hours.
A Sims spokesman issued a statement that said:
“The facility is regularly inspected by the fire department and other governmental departments and quickly responds to their recommended corrective measures. We engage in regular training on fire prevention.”
Sims Metal Management also issued the following statement Tuesday:
“While this incident is still being investigated, we want to make clear that our information indicates Sims personnel promptly called 911, even as other employees were taking steps to respond to the fire, according to established protocols, by moving materials away from the fire, activating hoses and beginning to hose down the fire with water. It is not the case that we tried to fight this fire on our own in lieu of calling 911.
In addition, we want to clarify that our company was not fined $100,000 for any violation related to the 2010 fire at the Claremont facility. In the wake of the 2010 fire, we were fined $2,000 by NJDEP, which was lessened to $1,000 because of our prompt payment.”
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