HOLTSVILLE, N.Y.—A storage facility containing an estimated 162,000 illegally stockpiled scrap tires caught fire May 30 in this Long Island community, creating pools of runoff and heaps of burnt rubber. About 200 firefighters from 23 departments battled the blaze, first reported at 9:52 p.m., and continued until it was extinguished at mid-afternoon May 31, according to Mark Lowery, public affairs supervisor for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Fire officials still are probing the cause of the fire. It destroyed most of the storage building and—from the water used to extinguish the blaze—left pools of runoff containing high levels of zinc, Mr. Lowery said. Fortunately, the fire never reached a temperature high enough to melt the tires and generate petroleum products, he added.
No evacuations in the surrounding areas were issued, he said, but the fire did force an adjacent factory to shut down after two feet of runoff water spilled into the complex.
The tire pile is owned by Island Wide Recycling Inc., a local tire hauler that leased the facility from American Lumber Co., Mr. Lowery said.
The company's principal, John McDonald, had received 26 citations for not having a legal permit to store or recycle tires, Mr. Lowery said. The DEC isn't certain who Island Wide Recycling's customers were, but it was reported to the agency that the firm charged tipping fees of $2.
Mr. Lowery noted that even if Mr. McDonald had a storage permit, he would have violated several state regulations, including not having adequate spaces between tires, unsafe tire pile height and sizes, and inaccessibility to firefighting equipment.
"(Mr. McDonald) essentially had pulled most of the tires into a building and had this big building heaped from floor to rafters with tires," Mr. Lowery said.
Although the DEC had cited Mr. McDonald, the agency never took any administrative action against him. However, the town of Brookhaven, N.Y., which has legal jurisdiction over Holtsville, had obtained court orders for the pile's cleanup, Mr. Lowery said.
On June 2, a judge signed an order giving the town the authority to clean up the site. As the landowner, American Lumber will knock down what's left of the building and remove the burned tires, Mr. Lowery said. Brookhaven also is seeking to revoke Island Wide Recycling's hauler permit.
Mr. McDonald couldn't be reached for comment.