Tire Fire Under Investigation

Reported by: Melanie Kendall
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Updated: 4/23 11:15 pm

It took crews in Laurel County hours to put out flames at a tire recycling plant.

They said they continue to battle the threat of an environmental hazard with all the water run-off.

It was quite a mess of fire crews who said the fire may have been intentionally set.

“It was a raging inferno when we got here,” said Amber Hale, director of Emergency Management in Laurel County who was first on the scene.

Hale said flames were 50 to 60 feet in the air with lots of smoke.

“A large fireball really,” said Lt. Wes Walker with the Laurel County Fire Department.  “You couldn’t tell what was tires and what wasn’t.”

Lt. Walter said the call originally came in as a brush fire with a few tires in the grass. 

When crews arrived, they said the gate to the tire recycling plant was locked and they had to cut their way to the flames.

“It's a suspicious fire,” said Hale.  “We believe it to be arson.”

The fire was at least 100 burning tires that crews said were stacked about six tall.

“There wasn't a lot of room between each tire to get out so the fire as it was burning all that heat was trapped in the middle of it,” said Lt. Walker.

“The fire grew like a chimney inside those tires,” said Hale.

Seven fire departments worked together, in full gear to protect themselves, for nearly four hours.

“You can put all the water and all the foam you want but until we go equipment in here and started spreading the fuel out it was a losing battle,” said Lt. Walker. “Once we started spreading the tires out were we could work on each individual tire at a time, we actually started making some headway and making some progress.”

Smoke could be seen from neighboring counties but crews said there shouldn’t be any danger to the community. 

They said it took about 100,000 gallons of water to put the fire out and they want to make sure none of the tire rubber runs off into drinking water.

“They've set up all the precautions to catch all the water,” said Lt. Walker.  “The EPA's been here doing air monitoring, making sure that the problem is taken care of before it gets from here.  Making sure nothing gets into any of the streams, making sure the air is ok.”

Crews said they plan to keep an eye on the recycling plant to make sure another fire doesn’t spark from all the stored heat still in the tires.

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