Huge pillars of thick, black smoke belched into the skies above Macon’s industrial district Wednesday as firefighters battled a fire at Newell Recycling of Macon for much of the afternoon.
The fire at the recycling facility at 4460 Broadway shut down about a third of a mile of the road in south Macon for several hours while fire crews got the blaze under control.
Macon-Bibb County Fire Chief Marvin Riggins said the fire, which started about 1:40 p.m., apparently was caused by an employee moving an automobile that was supposed to be crushed for recycling. Somehow, he said, a fuel cell or something else that contained petroleum was punctured.
The car was placed in a 30-foot pile of several cars that was scheduled to be crushed for recycling. The fuel trickled through the pile, making the fire in the recycling yard extremely difficult to put out, Riggins said.
No one was injured during the fire, Riggins said.
“It was very difficult to get to,” he said. “It was difficult to put our (water) streams in position. Also, there were a lot of explosive materials around the yard, like old tires.”
Riggins said fire teams had to run longer lines than normal because of the fire’s distance from the hydrant, and that running multiple lines and aerial hoses caused the water pressure to decrease initially until the Macon Water Authority increased it.
“They boosted the pressure in this area,” Riggins said. “We were running several water streams, and any time you do that, you’re going to have that problem. It’s not uncommon.”
It took firefighters about 90 minutes to get the fire under control. Between 25 and 30 firefighters worked on the blaze, Riggins said, and recruits were brought in to work in the “cold zone” — a support area not near the fire.
“It was very labor intensive,” Riggins said. “We had the recruits there working as a reserve corps in the cold zone, not the hot zone. It was a good experience for them. They got a first-hand view of what they are embarking upon.”
Riggins said the scrap yard made the area the firefighters were working in — about 50 feet by 50 feet — more dangerous because there were many items surrounding them that could have exploded and sent shrapnel flying.
The incident marks the second fire at Newell Recycling since last July, Riggins said. However, the previous fire was caused by other factors and was in a different part of the yard, he said.
A Newell Recycling employee at the site Wednesday declined to comment about the fire.
Riggins said he expected fire crews to be working well into the night to check for hot spots, because the fire was still smoldering more than three hours after it began. In addition, crews had to contain water runoff to make sure contaminated water didn’t spread from the site to other nearby water supplies.
“It was pretty difficult,” Riggins said. “But I was pleased with the way the guys set it up.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.