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Fire under control at rubber recycling facility

Two crews of four firefighters were extinguishing the last sparks of a stubborn blaze Monday afternoon after a compound filled with recycled rubber matting caught fire early Sunday morning at an industrial site off Wayne Gretzky Parkway.At the height of the blaze, in an outdoor storage area at North West Rubber at 321 Henry St., between Middleton Street and Adams Boulevard, smoke could be seen from neighbouring counties.Brantford deputy fire Chief Todd Binkley said the fire was under control by about 3:30 a.m. Monday.“Crews are still on scene with excavators digging through piles of product and ensuring all the hot spots are extinguished,” he said.Binkley said he expected firefighters to remain on site at least throughout Monday.Despite pouring enormous amounts of water on the fire, thick black smoke emanated from the property for most of Sunday. The plume was reminiscent of the Hagersville tire fire of 1990 and was visible as far south as the Waterford area in Norfolk County.By mid-afternoon Sunday – with black smoke continuing to pour from the site — firefighters brought in an excavator to separate the piles.“Right now, there is no smoke,” said Binkley at about noon on Monday. “But there is potential for light to moderate smoke conditions as crews continue to work.”Residents and businesses in the area were advised on Sunday to close windows, not use their ventilation and air conditioning  systems and avoid smoke as a precaution. Contaminants found in the plume were “well below the Ministry of the Environment’s emergency screening values for public exposure,” said a media release issued by the city.“Therefore, at the levels currently measured the MOE does not anticipate health impacts to the public from short-term exposure to the plume from the fire.”The MOE was not at the site on Monday, said Binkley.On Sunday, businesses in the area of Wayne Gretzky Parkway and Henry Street were advised to close around 6 p.m.All businesses re-opened as usual on Monday morning. Henry Street, which had been closed, was re-opened on Monday, with lane reductions at Middleton and Adams.Binkley said the fire remains under investigation to determine the cause. Although the value of the loss hasn’t yet been calculated, Binkley said there is a “substantial loss of product.”Platoon Chief Wray Brimmer said the way in which the rubber mats were stacked, with wooden pallets in between to allow air flow, created a “perfect storm” for the blaze.“It was a challenging fire,” said Binkley. “The rubber was difficult to extinguish.”City firefighters were assisted by volunteer crews from Brant County and Six Nations. Chemicals mixed with tanker water produced foam used by firefighters to smother the fire. Foam was brought in from Hamilton, Six Nations, Toronto and other areas, said Brimmer.No firefighters were injured.An environmental worker at the scene said the fire was confined to an outdoor storage area. A witness said firefighters worked hard to prevent the flames from infiltrating adjacent buildings.Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis received periodic updates on the situation throughout Sunday. He was non-committal when asked if it was a good idea to let industries store large amounts of flammable, toxic materials within city limits when they are extremely difficult to extinguish.“I don’t intend to speculate until I know all the facts,” Davis said Sunday afternoon. “If there is an issue, I intend to pursue it further with provincial authorities.”North West Rubber’s website says the company was established in 1968.The company “owns and operates manufacturing facilities in British Columbia, Ontario, China and Texas,” the website says. “The markets that NWR serves today include agriculture, recreational flooring, commercial flooring, playground, pet, construction, industrial, traffic safety, marine, solar, manufacturing and landscaping.”North West Rubber derives its raw materials from discarded old tires among other sources.City Coun. Richard Carpenter, who represents the ward where the fire occurred, said the company “has never had a problem before in the city.” David Pruim, chief financial officer for North West Rubber said the company is “very thankful to Brantford Fire Department for their work yesterday to limit the damage and the impact to ongoing operations.” Prium said he doesn’t think the company’s 40 to 45 employees will be off work for long, “so impact to them should be minimal.”  “We store finished goods as well as semi-finished goods in that yard. All of it was destined to fill customer orders, so we will now be working with our customers on contingency plans,” he said.  While Prium said it’s too early to make any estimates on damages, he said the company will work to determine the cause and do whatever is necessary to reduce the risk of it happening again. “We’re a company trying to do the right thing for the environment, in the safest and most environmentally-friendly way possible,” he said. “North West Rubber has operated a plant for over nine years in Brantford with no previous incidents.  We have invested tens of millions of dollars in Brantford to create jobs and safely process and produce value-added products out of recycled rubber.” read more

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