New Westminster fire crews douse “spectacular” fire at plastic recycling plant

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A number of Queensborough businesses have a lot to be thankful for after firefighters contained a “spectacular” fire that broke out in an industrial site on Thanksgiving Day.

Fire crews were called to a plastic recycling plant near Salter Street and Derwent Way at 7:19 p.m. on Monday. Despite a “massive” fuel load that sent flames shooting 40 to 50 feet into the air, crews managed to contain most of the fire to bales of plastic recyclables.

“They take all the plastic bottles, plastic juice containers, all that kind of stuff, and run them into a packer and actually compress them down and make bales of plastic, almost like a bale of hay but a little bit bigger, and they are all plastic,” said Fire Chief Tim Armstrong. “Then they go out to recycling.”

Billowing black smoke – due to the petroleum in the plastic products – could be seen for miles.

“Basically, that was the entire fuel load,” Armstrong said. “The other thing with a petroleum-based fire is it is kind of hard to suppress it with water – it’s the same thing as ‘don’t put water on a grease fire.’ Eventually you will be able to suppress it with water.”

The Oct. 12 fire comes just a month after the massive Sept. 13 fire that burned for days and destroyed a section of Westminster Pier Park. Like last month’s fire, Armstrong said the Queensborough fire also occurred on a site that had a significant fuel load, which made it hard to suppress.

“The crews did a really phenomenal job,” he told the Record Tuesday afternoon. “They saved the adjacent warehouse. We were lucky the wind conditions were just right. The wind was blowing away from the warehouse. If the wind had been blowing the other direction, we probably would have had a different story; that warehouse adjacent to it probably would have went up.”

queensborough fire salter derwent
New Westminster firefighters battled a blaze at Derwent Way and Salter Street. Shane MacKichan photo

Along with New Westminster firefighters, crews from Delta and Richmond also assisted with the four-alarm fire. At its peak, 50 firefighters fought the blaze at the industrial site.

“It’s a big area – kind of like the pier,” Armstrong said. “It was huge. I’d say the whole site was probably about 15 to 20 acres. There were a lot of obstacles in there – they had shipping container storage in there, truck storage, shipping containers and tractor-trailers, things like that stored down there.”

Armstrong said there’s a number of commercial businesses located on the industrial site, but crews prevented the fire from spreading beyond the recycling plant. He said there was some damage to one side of the plant’s warehouse, but nothing that would compromise the building’s structural integrity.

“We were quite concerned that the warehouse itself was going to catch on fire, then we would have had real increased sizable loss,” he said. “Right now the loss is really only the plastic bales. There is minimal damage to the warehouse itself.”

By Tuesday morning, most of the fire had been extinguished and crews were putting out a few remaining hotspots.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, Armstrong said.



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