Firefighters battle blaze at paper recycling plant

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron
By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron
By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron
By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron
By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX -- High winds hampered firefighters' efforts as they battled a large blaze at a paper recycling plant in Phoenix.

The fire broke out just before 2 p.m. Tuesday at the facility owned by Bio-Pappel International Inc. in an industrial area near Jefferson Street and 15th Avenue. It was formerly McKinley Paper Company.

Chopper video showed flames and a huge column of thick, black smoke. That smoke was visible for miles.

More than 100 firefighters responded to the scene. They took a defensive position handling the flames aggravated by gusty winds.

Crews found themselves virtually swallowed by smoke as they dumped thousands of gallons of water down from the platforms high above the inferno.

It was the perfect storm. Strong winds fanned the flames, and the crates of cardboard and piles of paper served as kindling, fueling the fire.

"With this kind of wind blowing, it's just unbelievable," said Deputy Chief Frank Salomon of the Phoenix Fire Department. "We have no idea what direction it's going to go."

Vince Hatcher happened to be walking by. He described the first few moments of the fire.

"There were several explosions and black smoke kept rolling and rolling," he said. "You could see the flames inside the plumes of smoke. The poles started catching fire and the wires started popping."

Kyle Hedlund was in downtown Phoenix when he saw the smoke.

"It was dark as heck. I couldn’t tell what it was. It looked like tires at first," he said.

He decided to pull up a seat and watch the brave firefighters go to work.

"I came over here and got in close. Shouldn't have, it’s the worst thing a person can do, probably."

Occasionally an explosion would convince spectators to watch this fire from a distance.

Even from afar, the heat was incredible.

"Real intense, real intense heat here!" Hedlund said.

There are no reports of any injuries at this time.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.