Seventy-five firefighters yesterday battled a five-alarm blaze that first destroyed a waste recycling building at 295 Service Road in Sandwich.
The building fire initially was reported shortly after 6:30 AM. Within 10 minutes, the structure was fully involved, according to Sandwich Fire Chief William C. Carrico II.
The structure housed construction and demolition materials such as metal and wood.
Firefighters from a number of Cape and off-Cape departments provided mutual aid to the Sandwich Fire Department and helped cover stations of responding departments as needed.
Michael A. Camara, president of New Bedford Waste Services, which operates the Service Road facility, called the building a total loss.
“I’m standing here looking at it,” Mr. Camara said in a telephone interview late yesterday morning. “The roof is collapsed in.”
Although firefighters quelled the heaviest flames in fairly short order, the fire continued to burn in the labyrinth of mangled materials inside the building.
Smoke billowed out from the fire scene, carried northward over Service Road and across all four lanes of the Mid-Cape Highway in the vicinity of Exit 3.
Chief Carrico said the smoke contained elevated levels of cyanide, a chemical that is a hazardous byproduct of combustion.
In response, firefighters used air packs to help them breathe safely. A section of Service Road between Quaker Meetinghouse Road and the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center was closed to all but emergency and neighborhood traffic.
Further, Chief Carrico said, air was monitored in the neighborhoods near the fire scene for contamination. The air in the neighborhoods tested safe throughout the day. No evacuations were ordered.
One firefighter suffered an eye injury and was treated at the scene, the chief said. Mr. Camara said none of the four employees who work at the recycling facility was injured.
Investigators believe the fire was accidental, Chief Carrico said.
Although the cause has not yet been pinpointed, the chief said the fire might have resulted from the improper disposal of materials such as rags. The chief said material inside the building could have smoldered for hours overnight before bursting into flame the following morning.
Sandwich Fire Captain Robert Black III and the state fire marshal’s office are investigating the cause of the fire.
Firefighters from departments including Plymouth, Kingston, Hyannis, Barnstable, West Barnstable, Cotuit, Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills, Mashpee, Yarmouth and Joint Base Cape Cod fought the stubborn fire.
Agencies including the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Fire Services also responded to the scene, providing expertise and specialized vehicles such as a command center.
Chief Carrico said the Sandwich Fire Department went to five alarms because the department needed help at the blaze with resources and manpower.
The fire chief also said the day initially was warm. Bringing in more manpower enabled commanders to rotate crews and to have them work safely in the heat.
By the end of the afternoon, a massive excavator was ripping down the skeleton of the building while the West Barnstable mobile fire tower poured a stream of water on the site, sending smoke and steam into the air.