New Brunswick

Firefighters attempt to smother Minto, N.B. tire fire with sand, fire marshal says

A tire fire that's been burning at a recycling business in Minto, N.B., since Friday is under control, but it will likely be days before it is put out. Community members are helping ease the loss of the plant, which employs

Air quality advisory remains in effect for several communities after fire at recycling company started Friday

The fire that erupted at the tire recycling plant in Minto, N.B., late Friday evening continues to burn, but was under control Sunday. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Firefighters battling a blaze at a tire recycling business in Minto, N.B. are attempting to smother the fire with sand, the province's fire marshal said.

"Given that the material is not readily extinguishable with water, what we're moving forward with is bringing in considerable quantities of sand to try to smother the fire that way," said Michael Lewis. 

The fire, which began late Friday evening at TRACC Tire Recycling, is under control. About 30 fire departments responded to the blaze over the weekend, including from Fredericton, Oromocto, Harvey, Keswick Ridge, Jemseg and Douglas Harbour. 

Sand was gradually being applied to the burning material by bulldozers, Lewis said, adding he's not exactly sure when the fire would be extinguished, but it would likely to take a matter of days.

Geoffrey Downey, spokesperson for New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization, cautioned people in the Minto area to seek medical attention if they experience breathing problems from the smoke.

"There's still lots of fuel to burn in there ... but right now, it's under control, it's not affecting the building, it's not spreading but [the] tires still are on fire," said Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson with New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization (EMO).

Six fire departments remained on the scene Sunday. The facility's building was damaged, but the fire has been isolated to the tire storage area, which covers more than one hectare of land. 

Environmental impact to be considered

No injuries have been reported. There is an air quality advisory for the Minto and Chipman area, but Downey said he expects reduced smoke in the coming days.

Residents are still advised to stay in their homes, keep their windows closed and stay away from the site of the fire.

Greg MacCallum, the director of EMO, said the main priority now is mitigating the environmental impact.

"We are devising plans to treat this fire as best we can by suppressing the smoke that's being generated by the fire in defence of the air quality," MacCallum said, adding they're also minimizing the amount of water being used. 

New Brunswick Environment Minister Jeff Carr said that once the site is safe, an environmental assessment will be done. 

"Looking at the big plumes of smoke, it is concerning and it does raise alarm," Carr said. "We have inspectors on scene that are assessing the situation 24/7 and when it is safe for them to get on site and to begin soil samples and water samples, then we'll know more on the next steps on the environmental side."

'Huge blow' to the community

Minto Mayor Erica Barnett said TRACC is one of the community's biggest employees and the fire is a "huge blow."

The tire recycling business employs around 50 people. 

Despite the upsetting circumstances, Barnett said, she's proud of the community members and how they've pitched in to help, especially during the holidays.

"It's been very impressive," Barnett said. "They've been coming and offering any help they possibly can. Whether it's food or offering to help run things back and forth to the fire hall. They've done everything they possibly could and I'm extremely proud of our community for that."

Minto Mayor Erica Barnett said the community will move forward and hopefully rebuild once the fire is out. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Barnett said there's no indication of what will happen to the business once the fire is out.

Kris Austin, the MLA of the area, said he's hopeful the plant will open again.

"They've got to do something with the tires," Austin said. "This is a tire recycling facility, which I believe services all of New Brunswick and beyond, so I'm optimistic it will at some point be back up."

Curtis Richardson, communications manager of TRACC, said it will release a statement in the coming days.

"For now we are urging the public to please listen to the local EMO and give lots of space for first responders to work," Richardson said in an email.

With files from Gary Moore

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