Firefighters and company employees have taken control of a tire fire in southern Florida without interrupting operations at Florida Tire Recycling Inc. and apparently without environmental damage.
``When you're prepared and trained and cooperate with the fire department, these things don't become big issues,'' said Dave Quarterson, CEO of the Port St. Lucie-based company.
The fire started Oct. 13 in a pile of tire chips at the company's 32-acre site, said Capt. Tom Whitley of the St. Lucie County Fire District. The tire chip pile measured about 200 by 300 feet in length and width and 25 feet in height. The chips, which are processed for tire-derived fuel (TDF), were 1,000 feet from any of the site's structures.
In the last 12 months, Florida Tire Recycling has processed 7 million tires into crumb rubber, TDF and asphalt additives. The company produces 30 million pounds of crumb rubber annually and plans to install a third mill, boosting its output to 45 million pounds per year, Mr. Quarterson said.
Firefighters assisted workers, who doused the fire in about five hours using water from a hydrant connected to one of the company's retention ponds, he said.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection requires the company to have a written fire plan. Florida Tire Recycling also had hired a consultant to train its employees in the event of a fire. The fire department had taken a pro-active role, conducting tours to familiarize itself with the site.
``When we did need to enact this plan, it worked,'' Mr. Quarterson said.
Though the pile continued to smolder as of Oct. 16, the fire department removed the last of its trucks a day earlier. The department will monitor the site and continue to investigate the cause, Mr. Whitley said.
Florida Tire Recycling has had two fires since Sept. 30, and they are the only two such incidents the firm has had since it began operating 14 years ago. The first fire started when sparks from a welder's torch ignited scrap tires.
State and federal environmental officials are monitoring the site for air and water concerns. A bermed road surrounding the facility has contained the water used to put out the fire, said Willie Puz, a Florida DEP spokesman. The fire also apparently has not caused any air quality issues, he said.