Nearly 60 firefighters spent more than seven hours battling a fire that tore through a pile of scrap aluminum at Eastern Kentucky Recycling in Williamsburg Thursday.
Williamsburg Fire Chief Larry Todd said firefighters were paged to the scene at 300 Savoy Clear Creek Road at approximately 11:50 a.m. The last trucks left the scene at approximately 6:45 p.m.
“It was a good mixture of scrap from aluminum siding, tin off of roofs, old siding with foam and air conditioning units,” Todd said.
“The refrigerators, condensers and compressors may have been a contributing cause of the fire,” he said emphasizing that investigators found nothing to indicate arson.
“It was, more or less, an accidental fire on a hot day,” Todd said.
Todd said firefighters were hampered in their efforts to extinguish the blaze as the metal pile prevented them from directly attacking it at the source.
They began making headway with the help of the recycling company’s excavator, which was used to open up the pile.
“I have to give kudos to owner Jeff King, manager Chris Cureton and the employees for the help in fighting the fire,” Todd said.
However, at one point a hydraulic line on the excavator blew off.
“They were like a pit crew in getting a new hose from Corbin and getting it installed,” Todd said of the employees.
Company officials had a second excavator brought in from the Mount Vernon location.
Residents in the Savoy Clear Creek Road area of Whitley County were asked to remain indoors or evacuate to the Williamsburg Civic Center as firefighters worked to contain the blaze.
Firefighters from Williamsburg, Emlyn, Pleasant View, South Whitley Patterson Creek, Oak Grove, Woodbine, Rockholds and Goldbug responded to repeated calls for manpower and equipment.
Todd said 58 firefighters responded to the calls at some point.
“It was really great to see that many people turn out on a workday,” Todd said.
Todd said firefighters worked in 45-minute shifts because of the heat and the toxic fumes emitting from the fire which forced them to work in full turnout gear and on air from their breathing apparatuses.
“We had two Whitley County EMS units and four EMT’s monitoring the firefighters’ vital signs and oxygen levels,” Todd said adding that Croley Funeral Home provided a canopy tent to shade the rehab area.
Laurel County Fire Department responded with its cascade air truck that allowed the air bottles to be refilled on sight.
Todd said a hydrant 500 yards from the scene was used to feed Woodbine’s ladder truck.
Water dump tanks were set up and a tanker shuttle began to provide water for the pumper truck.
“That was the only hydrant out there,” Todd explained noting that the Firestone plant is nearby.
Todd offered his thanks to the crew of the Williamsburg Water Plant. Despite the amount of water firefighters were drawing from the hydrants, there was no interruption to the flow.
Rockholds firefighters covered the Williamsburg area in the event of another call during that time.
Todd said they responded to a call of a child not breathing.
Corbin firefighters were placed on standby and also took responsibility for covering the northern part of the county in the event of another call.
Todd said others worked to ensure firefighters were able to keep going. The Whitley County Road Department brought in fuel trucks to keep the fire trucks fueled with help from inmates from the Whitley County Detention Center.
“Amber Owens from the judge-executive’s officer and Felicia and Jason from 911 provided the firefighters with water and food,” Todd said.
In addition, Todd said a crew of 10 people from the Environmental Protection Agency were on scene to monitor the air and water. They remained on scene overnight to help make sure there were no contaminants in the air.
“Everybody worked in such good harmony. It was outstanding!” Todd said.