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New Jersey recycling plant fire prompts investigation

Posted on by SST

A metal recycling facility in New Jersey caught fire on August 20, sending plumes of smoke into the air that could be seen from New York City. 

CBS New York reported the fire, that started at 10 p.m. on Monday at the Sims Metal Management Company in Jersey City, N.J., blazed through the night with multiple crews working with cranes and other heavy machinery to disperse the super-heated piles of scrap metal. The fire was concentrated in such mounds of metal in the receiving area of the Sims Metal Management facility.

"Because metal burns very hot and doesn't burn away like wood does," James Shea, director of public safety of Jersey City, told CBS. "They've basically had to take that stack apart piece by piece and put out individual fires, move to the side and start the process again."

While Sims Metal Management claims its employees called 911 to report the blaze, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop believed a Coast Guard boat patrolling the harbor reported it after crews tried to extinguish the fire themselves, and that flammable materials were not properly screened. As a result, the mayor has called for a full investigation.

"Seeing this happen again in a couple of months or a couple of years is probably not the best course of action," Fulop said. "I've only been in office for two months, but I think it's appropriate to say we are going to revisit the overall relationship there and how we deal with this."

Critical reactions
Aside from the fire department response, Fulop was critical of Sims response time calling first responders. He went as far as saying the delay in alerting authorities stems from Sims fearing the consequences of an investigation. However, in a statement released by Sims Metal Management, the company reassured that its internal response to the fire is a part of protocol. 

"While this incident is still being investigated, we want to make clear that our information indicates Sims personnel promptly called 911, even as other employees were taking steps to respond to the fire, according to established protocols, by moving materials away from the fire, activating hoses and beginning to hose down the fire with water," the statement read. "It is not the case that we tried to fight this fire on our own in lieu of calling 911."

According to Darren Rivers, the chief of the Jersey City Fire Department, there have been numerous fires at the Sims plant stretching back more than a decade. Bob McHugh, spokesperson for the Jersey City Fire Department, said fires at recycling plants are relatively common, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

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