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Fire breaks out at recycling center

April 01, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

and KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writers

A fire at a local recycling drop-off center kept Hagerstown firefighters busy for four hours on Monday afternoon, officials said.

Fire broke out shortly after 1:30 p.m. in a Hagerstown Recycling and Trucking storage room full of small rolls of recycled paper stacked four to five feet high, fire officials said.

The cause of the fire at 601 Mitchell Ave. was under investigation, said Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker. No one was injured.

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Firefighters had the fire under control by around 3 p.m., but it took firefighters until about 5:30 p.m. to remove the smoldering rolls of paper from the storage room, Hawbaker said.

The roughly 50-by-30 room contained tens of thousands of small recycled paper rolls, similar in appearance to adding machine paper rolls, said Hagerstown Battalion Chief Kingsley Poole.

Damage was contained to the room, Poole said. He said it was difficult to set a damage estimate because of the building's age and unusual inventory.

Heavy smoke from the fire caused Hagerstown Recycling and Maryland Metals to shut down early, officials said.

The recycling company employs five people, according to the 1997 Business & Industry Directory published by the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

The firm collects, bales and ships newspaper, cardboard, waste paper, aluminum, glass and some plastics to mills, according to the directory.

Fire officials instructed Maryland Metals' Steel Products Division to evacuate the company's building at the corner of Mitchell Avenue and Burhans Boulevard because smoke was getting inside the building, said division manager Buck McCoy.

McCoy said about 10 workers were being sent home.

At first, fire officials feared that the smoke might contain hazardous materials because Hagerstown Recycling operates at the site of the former Central Chemical Co., Hawbaker said.

But Maryland Department of Environment officials said there was no reason to be concerned about any airborne toxins, Hawbaker said.

Central Chemical produced agricultural fertilizers at the site from the late 1930s until the early 1980s. From the late 1940s until 1965, the plant also produced pesticides.

Hagerstown Recycling leases the land from Central Chemical.

About 35 firefighters, including Hagerstown firefighters and the Hazardous Incident Response Team, were at the fire site. Also on hand were Community Rescue Service, the Washington County Emergency Rehab Unit and the Washington County Emergency Air Unit.

Firefighters wore air packs as a precaution until officials determined there was no danger of airborne toxins, Hawbaker said.

The Central Chemical site is under consideration for inclusion in the Environmental Protection Agency's National Priority List, which identifies the country's most serious hazardous waste sites.

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