Firefighters battle 4th fire in 7 years at metal recycling plant in southeast Calgary

It took 13 fire truck crews to put out a blaze — the fourth in seven years — at a metal recycling plant in a southeast Calgary industrial area that sent big plumes of dark smoke into the sky and sparked fear of potential evacuations.

Part of Ogden Road was closed to traffic as crews extinguished the blaze

Fire crews were called out to fight a blaze at a recycling plant in southeast Calgary early Wednesday morning. (@APyzalski/Twitter)

It took 13 fire truck crews to put out a blaze — the fourth in seven years — at a metal recycling plant in a southeast Calgary industrial area that sent big plumes of dark smoke into the sky and sparked fear of potential evacuations.

The fire department was called to Calgary Metal Recycling in the Alyth-Bonnybrook-Manchester industrial area some time before 6 a.m. on Wednesday.

There have been previous major fires at the plant in 2012, 2015 and again in 2017. After the 2012 fire — which burned for two weeks and sparked evacuations due to air quality concerns — the company pleaded guilty to Alberta Fire Code offences and was ordered to pay about $17,000 in fines.

Flames and plumes of dark smoke were visible as firefighters arrived at the facility at 3415 Odgen Road S.E.

At the height of the response, there were 13 trucks at the scene, including a command vehicle and an incident safety officer, said Battalion Chief Alistair Robin.

Police shut down Ogden Road to traffic from Bonnybrook Road to 34th Avenue S.E. to give crews room to battle the blaze. 

Air quality measured

Robin said crews immediately worked with company officials to determine what was burning in the outdoor piles of recycling materials and whether it was necessary to call for any evacuations.

An evacuation plan was readied in case the air quality and smoke became dangerous, but it proved unnecessary, the fire department said in a release.

"Our hazmat team were evaluating the quality of the air, and everything went in our favour," Robin said.

Company crews used on-site equipment to help fire crews get to the root of the blaze.

"It really helps that they can move those rubble piles around and really let us get access to where the hotspots are," Robin said.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the flames by about 7 a.m.

There were no injuries and no damage to the buildings at the facility, Robin said.

He said a crew will remain at the scene through the morning to put out hotspots.

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra says Calgary Metal Recycling uses a process that's at the technological forefront of vehicle recycling, but it's a new process that has its dangers.

"The traditional auto wreckers basically took ground-up cars that were like stewing beef. And what Calgary [Metal Recycling] was doing was pursuing a new approach to recycling cars," he said.

"And instead of stewing beef, they were going to deal with ground meat, like ground beef.… It's called 'auto fluff.' And when you grind a car down to a very finer grain and put it through this new manufacturing process, you can actually recycle way more."

Carra says the city will make sure that the company has been abiding by all the regulations.

"What we know about today's fire is that we're on top of it, we are studying whether they messed up and made the piles too high against the regulations, or whether we need to change the regulations and have smaller and more spread-out piles," said the Ward 9 councillor.

"But the fact is that we have to grind up our cars and we have to recycle them and this is the most effective way to do it."

Calgary firefighters were able to put out the fire at the metal recycling facility by about 7 a.m. on Wednesday. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

Calgary Transit said several bus routes in the area were detoured because of the fire. CN Rail temporarily stopped movements on its rail line directly east of the scene until the fire was extinguished.


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