WATERTOWN, Wis.-It took five days and the efforts of firefighters from 100 fire departments, but a massive fire at a scrap tire recycling facility near Watertown finally is out.
The fire began the morning of July 19 in a pile of tire chips at Watertown Recyclers L.L.C., and spread quickly to consume as many as half of the 400,000 to 1 million tires at the site.
Thomas Springer, owner of Watertown Recyclers, said either a spark or internal combustion started the fire, according to local news reports. Neither Springer nor his attorney, Vicki Zick, could be reached for further comment.
Some 100 to 125 firefighters from local fire departments fought the blaze, according to Chief Deputy Blaine Lauersdorf of the Watertown Sheriff´s Dept. Various news sources said 30 tanker trucks poured 3 million gallons of water on the fire, which destroyed the recycling facility and a nearby house that Springer owned but did not occupy. No injuries were reported.
Officials from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency were at the site July 21, monitoring the air and groundwater situation there. Because firefighters acted quickly to contain the fire, environmental officials believe the long-term environmental effects will be minimal, according to Chief Deputy Lauersdorf. Nevertheless, health officials warned people who lived close to the fire to stay indoors with their windows closed to avoid the oily black smoke.
Springer, who produced tire-derived fuel and other scrap tire materials at the site, had received warnings from the Watertown Fire Dept. as early as 1997 that he wasn´t storing tires properly.
In April, the Dodge County Board of Adjustment ruled Springer in violation of his land-use permit, which only authorized him to store 200,000 tires on his property, and ordered him to begin cleanup. Zick filed an appeal for Springer in May, the same month a group of neighbors sued Springer to force him to comply with the 200,000-tire limit.
Springer tried to cooperate with authorities on scrap tire abatement, but a malfunctioning tire-shredding machine hampered his efforts, Zick said, according to an Associated Press story.