Fire crews still dousing hot spots after massive recycling fire in Phoenix

Dozens of firefighters remain at this scene of a massive recycling fire in Phoenix, where crews...
Dozens of firefighters remain at this scene of a massive recycling fire in Phoenix, where crews are still dousing hot spots.(Arizona's Family)
Updated: Jun. 5, 2021 at 10:56 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Fire crews were still dousing hot spots Sunday after a massive recycling fire in Phoenix.

More than 200 firefighters worked together on Saturday to gain the upper hand of the enormous fire. The blaze started at the Friedman Waste Control Systems northwest of 35th Avenue and Buckeye Road at about 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

As of Monday morning, 30-35 firefighters remain on scene of the recycling plant according to Phoenix Fire Captain Todd Keller. He says they have worked with Friedman Waste to come up with a plan to pass the scene over to them and they will be using their own water truck and hoses to put out the hotspots that are still there. The President of Friedman Recycling released the following statement:

“As you are aware, there was a fire at our Phoenix recycling facility on Saturday. We are very thankful that no one was injured, and the Phoenix Fire Department was quick to respond. Even though our plant is damaged, our service infrastructure remains intact and we are open and servicing every single customer today. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined by the Phoenix Fire Department,” said Morris Friedman.

As of Sunday morning, 50 firefighters were still working to put some some active hot spots still burning in the yard. Firefighters were expected to stay on scene throughout the night, with front end loaders being brought in to help break up the compacted cardboard and paper bales.

Firefighters surrounded the recycling yard but winds pushed the flames to nearby businesses. A tire shop, a lumber company and a recycling center were among those destroyed.

Fire crews from 10 different agencies helped put the fire out Saturday. It was the largest response in the Phoenix Fire Department’s history. “We’ll be out here throughout the night,” Fire Capt. Todd Keller, a Phoenix Fire Department spokesman, replied when asked how long it would take to put out the fire completely. Investigators say one firefighter was sent to the hospital with a leg injury but they should be OK.

The huge flames sent a thick plume of dark smoke into the air. The smoke could be seen from all over the Valley. There was so much smoke, it could be seen on the radar from the National Weather Service.

APS said crews had to cut power to the area to make sure the firefighters were safe. At the peak, 1,100 customers didn’t have electricity. As of 3:45 p.m., about 800 are without power. That dropped to 155 at 8:45 p.m. About five homes were evacuated for safety reasons.

Gov. Doug Ducey expressed his thoughts are with the first responders. “Praying for the safety of the firefighters from [the Phoenix Fire Department] and neighboring communities working tirelessly in the heat to put out this fire,” Ducey said in a tweet.

Louis Pemrod, an employee at Friedman Waste Control Systems, watched the place he goes to work every day go up in flames. “I’m am tripping. I am still tripping. I don’t know if I am going to be going back to work on Monday,” said Pemrod. He’s worried if he’ll have a job when all is said and done. “There won’t be nothing there. While we were standing there, we heard explosions going off,” said Pemrod.

The streets between Washington Street and Buckeye Road plus 35th to 39th avenues are closed. At this point, it’s not clear how the fire started.

Video from the Phoenix Fire Department (above) showed flames spitting through the roof of one building. Another angle showed flames in the thick smoke. Fighting a fire of this size is difficult, especially on extremely hot days like this. The forecast high is 107 degrees. Crews need to be rotated regularly to ensure that they do not suffer from heat-related illness, which can become deadly very quickly.