Blaze at Mass. Waste Facility Brings 50 Firefighters

The four-alarm fire burned through 20-foot tall piles of debris.


June 26--SANDWICH -- A huge fire engulfed a building filled with demolition materials on the Service Road, sending smoke pouring across the sky for miles early Thursday morning.

The blaze was reported at about 6:35 a.m. at the New Bedford Waste Services facility at 295 Service Road in a building containing piles of metal, wood and other materials.

When employees first opened up the facility, they didn't even smell smoke, said Sandwich Police Sgt. Bruce Lawrence.

But shortly thereafter when an employee looked inside the company's huge garage -- where construction debris is stacked in 20-foot tall piles -- he saw a small fire, Lawrence said.

Within the minutes it took to get the firefighters on the scene, the metal building was engulfed, Lawrence said.

It's unknown if there were explosions but two witnesses reported hearing popping noises from inside the structure.

Lawrence estimated that flames may have been as high as 50 feet at one time.

The fire shot through the 20,000-square-foot building, said Sandwich fire Capt. Scott Ames.

The building was "pretty full" at the time, providing a lot of fuel for the flames, Ames added.

The blaze required so much water that the nearby fire hydrants ran dry, and water had be transferred from a water main on the street, West Barnstable Fire Chief Joe Maruca said.

New Bedford Waste Services primarily processes and recycles construction and demolition debris and hauls municipal solid waste. The firm has other locations in New Bedford and Rochester, according to the company's website.

As of 7:50 a.m., the blaze had gone to four alarms and heavy, black smoke still poured from the building and wafted out onto Route 6.

For hours, the air was thick with strong smelling smoke, which due to the humidity, did not rise, said Bourne fire Captain Robert Ronayne.

Firefighters at the scene found a reading of cyanide, a typical byproduct of building fires and building demolition material, Maruca said. But the cyanide was at a level "we are not comfortable with" so all firefighters on the ground or in the ladder trucks were required to use air packs, he said.

The State Department of Environmental Protection was on the scene as well as Massachusetts Department of Fire Services special operations team.

Ames said they expected to be working the fire all day to pull out what remained of the debris and douse it thoroughly.

As many as 50 firefighters were on the scene in the morning, Ames said. Area fire departments also helped cover responding departments' towns.

Copyright 2014 - Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.