Rash Of Recycling Fires Spurs Closer Examination

Sean Rae, right, operations manager for Costello Dismantlers of Middleborough, keeps an eye on the Costello machine ripping down the building. A fire early Thursday morning destroyed the recycling building at 295 Service Road.
JAMES KINSELLA/ENTERPRISE - Sean Rae, right, operations manager for Costello Dismantlers of Middleborough, keeps an eye on the Costello machine ripping down the building. A fire early Thursday morning destroyed the recycling building at 295 Service Road.

A recent spate of fires at recycling facilities in Brockton and in Rhode Island is prompting Sandwich fire officials to take another look at the June 26 blaze that destroyed a 21,500-square-foot recycling building at 295 Service Road.

As of yesterday, Sandwich Fire Chief William C. Carrico II continued to characterize the fire as accidental and unexplained.

But Chief Carrico said a pair of fires that have since occurred at recycling facilities in Brockton, along with one at a recycling facility in Rhode Island, are spurring a reexamination of what may have happened at the Service Road building.

“We’re going to go back and reinterview everyone that was involved,” the chief said.

Unless the four events are coincidental, Chief Carrico said, a similar cause may underlie what led to all four fires—including the possibility that someone is targeting these kinds of facilities.

The Sandwich recycling building fire also followed a March 25 blaze at a recycling building at the Integrated Solid Waste Management facility operated by the Town of Bourne off MacArthur Boulevard.

Both buildings had been used as transfer facilities for construction and demolition waste.

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The March 25 Bourne blaze—a three-alarm fire that required a round-robin procession of tankers from a number of departments to help provide adequate water to fight the blaze—damaged but did not destroy the Bourne building.

Daniel T. Barrett, general manager at the Bourne facility, said yesterday that the building returned to operation about two weeks ago. No cause has yet been determined, Mr. Barrett said.

Meanwhile, the company that operated the Sandwich recycling building plans to rebuild the structure, completing the building by early next year.

The company, New Bedford Waste Services, also plans to erect a temporary 6,500-square-foot building at the property to accommodate its Cape recycling customers while the main structure is being rebuilt.

Company president Michael A. Camara anticipates that the remaining debris at the site will be removed in two weeks, clearing the way for construction to begin by the end of July.

As reconstruction plans move ahead, the town fire department and the state fire marshal’s office continue to investigate the Service Road fire.

No official cause has yet been determined for the June 26 fire, according to Chief Carrico.

He further said the nature of the blaze and the sprawling fire scene likely will make it difficult for investigators to pinpoint the object of origin of the fire.

A facility employee who opened the door of the building early on the morning of June 26 to prepare for its usual daily operation reported seeing a small fire by the building’s door a short time later.

The facility notified the Sandwich Fire Department at 6:39 AM. Within 10 minutes, Chief Carrico said, the building was fully engulfed.

The blaze eventually went to five alarms, drawing in mutual aid from a slew of departments on the Cape and the South Shore. About 75 firefighters fought the conflagration.

Chief Carrico said a firefighter suffered an eye injury, but was treated at the scene.

No facility employees were injured, Mr. Camara said.

On Monday, Chief Carrico said he wants to explore whether too much material was stored in the building prior to the fire.

“The building appeared to be at least 3/4 full,” Chief Carrico stated Monday. “The amount of fire observed would have overwhelmed the abilities of the sprinkler system that was installed.”

But no violations were reported at the facility when last inspected by the state Department of Environmental Protection on December 16, according to agency spokesman Joseph Ferson.

Mr. Camara said his company used the building as a Cape-based facility for the transfer of construction and demolition waste to the company’s recycling plant in New Bedford.

Although the building is destroyed, Mr. Camara said the company has other transfer facilities in southeastern Massachusetts that its Cape customers can use.

The businessman also said the company will be able to continue to employ all four Service Road facility workers elsewhere in its operations.

On June 26, Mr. Camara called the recycling building “a total loss.”

The building most recently had been assessed at $607,500, according to Edward L. Childs, the town’s director of assessing.

Town records show the structure was built in 1989. New Bedford Waste Services began operating the facility in 2010.

“If the structure is rebuilt, we would expect full code compliance for the hazard it represents,” Chief Carrico said.

In particular, the chief wants the building to include a so-called “deluge” sprinkler system that can drench a fire before the blaze gets going.

On June 26, Mr. Camara said insurance will cover the loss of the building and of any business revenue due to its loss.

The recycling building sat on a 31-acre site near residential neighborhoods off the Service Road.

Now that work at the site has shifted from inside the building to outdoors, Mr. Camara said the company has pushed back its daily starting time from 7 to 8 AM to lessen the noise impact on neighbors.

He said the company also plans to erect a four-foot-wide block wall to deaden sound from the revived recycling operation in the temporary building, as well as siting the temporary building in order to ease its impact on the residential neighborhoods.

“We want to be good neighbors,” Mr. Camara said.

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