MCFD Remembers Recycle America Fire in 2005
April 23rd, 2005 // 4th Alarm // Recycle America Alliance - Steelway Boulevard North
Nine years ago, the volunteers from Moyers Corners fought one of the biggest fires since forming in 1948. We have collected all of the news coverage from that day. We would like to start with a letter from MCFD Chief Steven M. Bressette:
At approximately 1600 hrs Saturday, April 23, 2005, Moyers Corners Battalion Chief Stephen Race noticed a large column of smoke as he traveled south on Morgan Road near the area of Steelway Boulevard South. Further investigation showed a well-involved warehouse fire in the Recycle America recyclable processing and storage facility at the very end of Steelway Boulevard South. Simultaneously, calls were starting to come into the Onondaga County 911 Center reporting heavy smoke in the same area. The resulting dispatch would trigger a series of events that would test the resources of the Moyers Corners Fire Department as well as several agencies within Onondaga County. The fire would eventually reach four alarms resulting in the largest firefighting operation in recent times for the Moyers Corners Fire District. In total, 22 fire departments and over 15 additional agencies provided fire suppression support, overhaul, and coverage of the Moyers Corners fire district during the eight core hours of the operation. This support was not limited to the initial day of operation, but continued in the days immediately following the alarm. The Moyers Corners Fire Department would formally like to thank the following agencies for their support during the four Alarm Recycle America Warehouse fire:
Moyers Corners Fire Department, Northern Onondaga Volunteer Ambulance, Baldwinsville Fire Department, North Area Volunteer Ambulance Corp, Belgium-Cold Springs Fire Department, Onondaga County Emergency Management, Brewerton Fire Department, Onondaga County Fire Investigation Unit, Bridgeport Fire Department, Onondaga County Sheriff's Office Road Patrol, Camillus Fire Department, Onondaga County Sheriff's Office Air-1, Cicero Fire Department, Onondaga County 911 Center, Clay Fire Department, New York State Police, Dewitt Fire Department, Town of Clay Police, Fairmount Fire Department, Town of Clay Water Department, Hinsdale Fire Department, 174th Air National Guard Crash/Rescue, Lakeside Fire Department, Syracuse Fire Department, Liverpool Fire Department, American Red Cross, Lysander Fire Department, Moyers Corners FD Auxiliary, Mattydale Fire Department, Clay FD Auxiliary, North Syracuse Fire Department, North Syracuse FD Auxiliary, Phoenix Fire Department, NOCO Oil, Plainville Fire Department; Seneca River Fire Department, Solvay Fire Department; South Bay Fire Department and Taunton Fire Department.
The teamwork, cooperation, and professionalism demonstrated by all of the agencies listed above contributed to a successful unified Command Post and firefighting operation. Members from your agency played an integral part of achieving that success. Although the building was a total loss, only one minor injury was sustained during the operation and all personnel operating on the scene went home safely.
Steven M. Bressette
Chief of Fire
April 25th, 2005
Clues Sought in Fire; Firefighters Keep Watch at Recyclable-Processing Site
By Jim Read
Firefighters worked in shifts Sunday extinguishing piles of recyclables still burning a day after Saturday's fire in the Recycle America Alliance warehouse in Clay. Fire investigators spent about seven hours inside the building looking for clues to the cause, said Ed Wisnowski, deputy chief of the Moyers Corners Fire Department. Firefighters poured water into the building's west side as investigators worked. Then payloaders and power shovels were used to clear the building, so firefighters could douse several dozen hot spots amid the bales of recyclables, which were 30 to 40 feet tall. Every few hours, a fresh engine crew was brought in from Moyers Corners and neighboring departments to replace those at work. Firefighters had been at the building around the clock since the fire was reported at 4:10 p.m. Saturday. Wisnowski said he hoped to get all the fires out Sunday night, but the department was prepared to remain at the warehouse overnight. The fire apparently started at the rear of the building, on the west side where part of the roof collapsed, Wisnowski said. The cause might not be determined for several days, he said.
The 80,000-square-foot warehouse processes recyclables from blue bins from across Onondaga County under a contract with Onondaga County, said Matthew Coz, vice president for operations for the East. The company also has contracts with other companies to accept other recyclable waste. Recycle America Alliance is a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc. Coz said 100 to 200 tons of newspaper, cardboard, plastics and metal were in the building when the fire was reported. That amount is typical for an average day at the warehouse, he said. About 40 people work in the building, sorting the recyclables and bundling them for shipment to markets. About 6,000 tons of material is processed each month in the Clay facility. The company has 85 recycling centers around the country, Coz said. The fire won't affect curbside pickup of recycling, said Andy Brigham, speaking for the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency. Coz said the company is calling its customers and is working on a plan to continue operations.
Brigham said people who bring recyclables and trash to the weigh station at the Rock Cut Road facility should go to the Ley Creek transfer station instead until further notice. OCRRA needs to keep the weigh station free because haulers who would have dropped off recyclables at the burned warehouse will instead bring them to Rock Cut Road. Then Recycle America Alliance will pick up the materials and bring them to another recycling center, he said. People who just drop off recyclables at Rock Cut Road without using the weigh station can continue to do so, Brigham said. Coz said the Recycle America Alliance warehouse is insured, but he had no damage estimate because company officials haven't been allowed inside to inspect damage to the sorting and bundling equipment.
April 25th, 2005
Fire departments stretched thin
If they are tired, these volunteer firefighters aren't showing it. The Moyers Corners volunteer fire department was kept busy, first with a major apartment fire in Liverpool, then a huge warehouse fire the next day in the town of Clay "Most of the members have flexibility on their jobs, we do it because we want to do it," Deputy Chief Ed Wisnowski said. Still, battling two major fires takes a toll both physically and mentally. Some can be stubborn, the department spent Sunday putting out hot spots at the Recycle America Alliance plant where smoke continues to smolder. To reduce fatigue, the unit rotates every two hours. "We try to send guys home, rehab them with rest, tell them to go home get some sleep if they are available to come back. That's why we are keeping the shifts very short when the back two to three hours and the hopefully most of the guys are coming back pretty fresh," Wisnowski said. Meanwhile, about 40 employees work at Recycle America. The company is now in the process of trying to figure out how to continue operation. "We don't know exactly where we stand right now, it's hard to determine what’s going to happen. We are going to be meeting with each employee tomorrow. We have our human resources department coming up and we are playing it day by day literally," said Matt Coz, Vice President of Recycle America Alliance. Company officials say the fire damage most of the 80 thousand square foot facility. The causes of both fires remain under investigation.
April 26th, 2005
Embers Smolder at Clay Recycler
By Pedro Ramirez III
Volunteer firefighters on Monday spent their second day at the Recycle America Alliance warehouse in Clay putting out smoldering piles of recyclables. "We're still putting water on it," Moyers Corners Battalion Chief Tim Chura said Monday afternoon. Chura said he expected the smoldering to last into today. Onondaga County fire investigators do not know how the fire started. It was first reported at 4:10 p.m. Saturday. Until they determine a cause, investigators are considering it suspicious, said Joe Rinefierd, fire bureau director for the county's Department of Emergency Management. Moyers Corners fire officials say a pair of big fires and routine calls in the northern suburbs over the past few days have kept firefighters busier than usual. "We haven't stopped running since this weekend," Chura said. On Friday, Moyers Corners sent a crew to help the Liverpool fire department and several others battle a blaze at the Grenadier Village complex in Salina that destroyed at least 10 apartments. County investigators have not determined a cause for that fire but consider it suspicious until they do, Rinefierd said.
He said the two major fires don't appear to be related. A minor house fire early Monday at 8305 Pansy Drive, Lysander, sent Moyers Corners firefighters back in action. It took about 10 minutes to extinguish that fire. Nobody was injured, Chura said. The department also responded to about five other routine calls Monday, not all of which turned out to be fires, he said. "It's been busy," he said. "Fortunately ... we've been doing fairly well." Chura says assistance from other local departments has helped a lot. Employers of the volunteer firefighters have been understanding too, he added. County fire officials say as many as 25 departments responded to Saturday's warehouse fire. That number included a little-known full-time crew, the 174th Air National Guard Fighter Wing's fire department.
The Guard sent two firefighters and a truck with high-powered water cannons to spray the mounds of recyclables. Saturday's blaze sent black billowing smoke across the area.
Diane Carlton, a state Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman, said the DEC hasn't sent anyone to test for pollutants. But state experts say the smoke wasn't something they were concerned about. "Obviously (with) any burning building you have air pollution issues," she said. For people with risk factors, such as senior citizens, young children and those suffering with asthma, the DEC suggests they avoid the area until the smoldering ceases, she said. On Monday, Recycle America company officials still had not been able to determine the extent of the damage to the warehouse and the equipment inside. They must wait until the fire is completely out. For now, however, the warehouse's 39 employees are wondering whether they still have jobs. It's a question the company can't answer yet, said Matthew Coz, vice president for operations for the East. Company officials met with employees Monday to answer questions, Coz said. But they didn't have many answers. Whether the company reopens the facility depends on the extent of the damage. If the warehouse and its equipment are a total loss, it could take six to 12 months to rebuild, he said. "It's hard to project that far ahead," he added. "We're hoping for the best."
April 28th, 2005
Firefighters Always Ready To Help
By Pedro Ramirez III
When the Moyers Corners Fire Department needs help on a call, it can expect neighboring volunteer departments to lend a hand. On Saturday, as crews from Moyers Corners, Liverpool, North Syracuse, Clay, Mattydale, Seneca River and Belgium-Cold Springs, just to name a few, battled a difficult fire at the Recycle America Alliance warehouse on Steelway Boulevard South, two firefighters with the 174th Fighter Wing joined the fray. Armed with a truck with high-powered spray cannons, the full-time firefighters were able to douse mounds of recyclables the other fire crews were having trouble with. The problem, Timothy Chura, a Moyers Corners battalion chief, explained, was that many of the mounds of recyclables were in tightly compressed bundles. "We had to blow them apart," Chura said. "(But) when they're crushed and bound together like that, we just couldn't get in there with a hose. The water just wasn't making any effect." Early on, firefighters decided to attack the blaze from outside because part of the building's roof had collapsed. Using ladder trucks, firefighters from several sides of the building tried dousing the flames from above the roof line.
The 174th's truck positioned itself at an opened front bay door at about 7:30 p.m. and began blasting the mounds apart. "That helped immensely," Chura said. The 174th's crew returned to its station at about midnight Sunday, said Capt. Jim Brody, one of the Air Guard's firefighters who responded to the scene. The two water cannons on the 174th's fire truck can shoot a combined 750 gallons of water a minute, Brody said The truck can carry 1,000 gallons of water and 130 gallons of foam, Brody said. It can also hook up to outside water sources. "We hooked up when we were there because obviously at 750 gallons of water a minute," he said, "we're almost out of water after the first minute." Brody says the 174th's fire department is on the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The department consists of 12 full-time firefighters and 30 traditional guardsmen, he said.
Brody said it's been a while since the 174th has been called out to a county fire. "Not a whole lot of people know we're out there and available for things like that," he said. "They think because we're at the airport, we're committed here constantly." Truth is that the 174th's fire crews can help in a situation outside the base as long as the unit isn't flying, he said. "We've always got our resources available when we don't have (F-16 jets) in the air," Brody said. "We are a good resource if needed."
May 5th, 2005
For Two Rookie Firefighters, Stress, Fun Go Hand in Hand
By Pedro Ramirez III
Moyers Corners bunk-ins Matt Buss, 20, and Josh Manning, 19, recently responded to the biggest fires of their young firefighting careers. Both responded to the April23 fire at the Recycle America Alliance warehouse in Clay. Manning also went to the April22 fire at the Grenadier Village Apartments in Salina. Buss, originally from Rochester, and Manning, of Campville, are enrolled in the Fire Protection Technology degree program at Onondaga Community College. Through the Moyers Corners Fire Department bunk-in program, which is in its fifth year, the two fledgling firefighters live rent-free at one of the department's four stations while they complete their studies. They are among six students enrolled in the Moyers Corners program. Recently, Buss and Manning paused from their duties to answer a few questions.
How do you handle the stress of being a firefighter at such a young age?
Buss: It's fun. You've got to have fun with it. But, there are times when it is very stressful.... It's like a brotherhood around here. The guys are great. They'll help you out. If you're feeling stressed, they'll take you, sit you down and talk with you because they've been through it.
What was it like working at the warehouse fire?
Buss: We were trying to knock it down, but it just kept laughing at us.
Manning: (This is) the biggest fire I've seen.... We put water on it, but still it wouldn't go out.
Do you have time for fun?
Buss: We have a great time at the firehouse. We laugh.
Manning: I don't think we're missing out on much. The only thing I think we're really missing out on is the dorm life that you would get in college. We've got a lot of freedom to go out to clubs and everything....
Should more young people pursue volunteer firefighting?
Buss: Absolutely.... Parts of it are dangerous. It's par for the territory. It's a brotherhood like no other.
Manning: It comes with good rewards like helping people. I encourage anyone to come out and volunteer.