ST. GEORGE — For the third time within a year, a scrap and debris fire sent flames and smoke into the sky over the Rocky Mountain Recycling & Processing facility in the St. George industrial park Thursday afternoon.
The fire at the facility, 838 N. 1080 East, sent a tall plume of dark smoke that could be seen throughout the city of St. George. But as far as damage, the smoke looked a lot worse than what was actually burning.
Only a large pile of metal, plastic and other hard scrap was burning in the fire, which started just before 2 p.m. and was being mopped up by 3:30 p.m. Firefighters protected the nearby main Rocky Mountain Recycling offices to the south and some storage units to the east.
That said, while damage was limited to the scrap and there were no immediate injuries, St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said firefighters were alerted to some propane tanks near the pile and firefighters poured water on the buildings to keep the fire from spreading their way.
“You get that dark, black smoke, but it is limited to that pile of recycled materials, but it had the possibility of spreading to the neighboring businesses and also your risk to the health and safety of those around it, including our firefighters,” Stoker said. “So far as damage-wise, there’s not much damage, but the concern and safety is still there.”
The fire was definitely a concern to workers at Rocky Mountain Recycling, who described to St. George News seeing fireball explosions from combustibles in the scrap pile. One worker near the pile when the file started was described as running and screaming from the pile as it was exploding, yelling to call 911.
St. George Fire had a ladder unit and multiple hoses fighting the fire, while Rocky Mountain Recycling workers joined in using a loader to move some of the scrap to aid firefighters toward getting to some of the hot spots.
“There’s no way to really get into the seat of the fire once it gets in these large piles of debris,” Stoker said. “We have to get those loaders in there to actually pull the piles apart, to get to the seat of the fires.”
Medical aid was requested for one of the workers running a loader. A worker said that person was the manager of the facility and they were transported by ambulance to St. George Regional Hospital.
Fire units from the Santa Clara/Ivins and Washington City fire departments helped as well, though not on site. They moved to the St. George stations to back up the city’s units while they were in the industrial park.
Complicating the situation is the fact there is just one way in and out of the area of the industrial park Rocky Mountain Recycling is in. St. George Police came in to assist on traffic control.
Also a help was that St. George firefighters have had a lot of practice putting out fires at the plant. Stoker said it was the third time in the last year that firefighters have been out to extinguish flames there.
He said Thursday’s fire was larger than a similar fire of scrap in April. Another fire last year burned a pile of cardboard at the site. And back in June 2018, a blaze at the facility also sent a large amount of smoke into the St. George sky.
While Stoker said dealing with hazardous and combustible materials is the “nature of the business” for a company like Rocky Mountain Recycling, it’s not lost on him that it is becoming a common stop for firefighters in St. George. He said the company could potentially face penalties from the city if it’s determined that it has been negligent in cleaning up and reducing the hazardous material threat.
“That’s something that we’ll have to look at and meet with our legal and our city administration,” Stoker said. “But we have done that in the past to some businesses. And that’s something that we could do here.”
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