Edmonton

'If you can smell it, stay inside': Industrial fire on city's eastern edge triggers air quality concerns

A large industrial fire in Strathcona County continues to burn, prompting a warning to nearby residents who may be exposed to the plume of toxic smoke.

'In that pile of stuff to go for recycling, there's cars, there's refrigerators, there's patio furniture'

Alberta Environment officials were called in to investigate air quality in the area after a fire erupted at a recycling plant late Tuesday. (David Bajer/CBC)

A large industrial fire in Strathcona County, just outside Edmonton, continues to burn, prompting a warning to nearby residents who may be exposed to the plume of toxic smoke.

Emergency crews responded to reports of an explosion at the GenAlta Recycling complex at 9301 34th St. around 10 p.m. Tuesday.

They found a large recycling pile on fire, said Devin Capcara, deputy chief of operations at Strathcona County Emergency Services.

According to the Recycling Council of Alberta, GenAlta is a scrap-metal processing facility with a heavy-duty shredder capable of shredding whole automobiles, farm machinery, furnaces, hot water tanks, appliances and other scrap steel.

As of Wednesday at 11 a.m., the fire continued to burn, sending black smoke billowing into the air in residential areas east of the city, Capcara said.

Anyone living nearby should be cautious of the fumes, he said. 

"Right now, the message that we're giving to the public is, if you can smell it, stay inside or move out of the area," Capcara said. 

"We're asking people to shelter in place if you are in that plume." 

Alberta Environment is working with fire crews to monitor air quality in the area, Capcara said. The plume was wafting over the southwest part of Sherwood Park throughout the night. 

"In that pile of stuff to go for recycling, there's cars, there's refrigerators, there's patio furniture," he said. 

"Identifying what's in that smoke is next to impossible so it's best to be inside or move out to the area. " 

No one was injured and no one was in the area when the fire started, Capcara said.

Multiple explosions were heard during the night as crews worked to douse the flames but the blasts were triggered by the fire, not the cause of it, he said.

"The explosions were metals or things that were in that pile were getting heated and popping off.

"We adopted a defensive fire attack because we weren't able to pull the piles apart or get in there with our equipment so we started cooling the fire and worked with the business to start pulling the piles apart to extinguish the fire." 

Capcara said the cause of the fire remains undetermined. Fire investigators will not be able to fully assess the scene until the flames are fully extinguished.

He said he expects the fire will be out by Wednesday afternoon. 

"We have some heavy equipment moving that stuff around," he said. "And I'm looking at the plume and it is getting better."

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