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Fire breaks out in Waste Resource Innovation Centre building (update)

Difficult fire to fight due to large amount of combustible material in the building.

2:15 p.m. update:

The City of Guelph advises that public access to the Waste Resource Innovation Centre, including the public drop-off, is temporarily closed. Telephone service is also unavailable at this time.

An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire. The extent of the damage is not yet known.

Additional information, once known, will be made available.

Original story:

A great deal of combustible material runs through the material recovery facility at Guelph’s Waste Resource Innovation Centre each day. Tuesday morning, some of that material caught fire.

Workers in the facility were evacuated, all free of injury, as recyclable material smoldered inside the building. A total of 27 people work in the facility, many of those employed as sorters.

“The fire call came in shortly after 10 a.m.,” said Guelph Fire Department deputy chief John Osborne, at the scene. Several fire trucks and about 20 firefighters were working to contain a tricky fire under very hot conditions. 

“The fire appears to be in some conveyors, and right now the crews think that it has jumped into the roof,” Osborne said. “Right now we are opening up some of the roof to see if we can get ahead of it.”

Osborne said a major concern is the possibility of sparks falling down into the large piles of material that is waiting to be sorted inside the building. He said there is a lot of combustible material in and around the conveyors, and a lot of places for sparks to hide.

There were about 10 fire crew members taking a breather outside the building about 11:30 a.m. Emergency call back procedures had been initiated, due to the potential for fatigue and heat exhaustion. Fighting the fire would take a great deal of time, Osborne said, given the many places were it could hide in the material. 

“Right now we don’t have any cause or extent of damage until we can get into it a little bit more,” he said. “We are battling the weather today, as well – getting enough crews and cycling them through. It’s very hot inside.”

Cameron Walsh is plant manager of solid waste resources for Guelph. He said the facility is integral to Guelph’s strategy for overall waste management.

“This is the key facility that essentially separates recyclables from the landfill material,” he said. “We have a complement of staff in there that remove materials that have a market, and the rest is then sent to landfill. It’s a key part of Guelph’s diversion strategy.”

Walsh said all workers that were inside the building Tuesday morning were accounted for and safe. Work was discontinued.

Walsh added that fires have occurred previously in the building, which was built in 1994. Most of the material that is brought by truck and dropped off on the ‘tip floor’ of the facility is combustible.

“You know through your own blue box and cart what ends up here,” he said.