Firefighters face unknown materials when some industrial facilities catch fire in Phoenix

PHOENIX - The Phoenix Fire Department inspects recycling and industrial facilities “on a regular basis,” according to Phoenix Fire Inspector Brian Scholl. First on their list are facilities with hazardous materials on site, he said.

But, he said there is no code that requires the fire department to inspect them a specific number of times a year.

After a string of industrial fires in Phoenix --two at paper and metal recycling plants and at least one involving hazardous materials-- fire officials told the ABC15 Investigators firefighters can access some information from an inspection on the way to a fire, but not the entire inspection.

“There will be a site map, hopefully giving them a better idea of where their access is, where their hydrants are,” Scholl said, “in addition to where the hazardous materials may be, and the amounts they can be.”

That’s the most important information they need when they’re approaching the scene of an industrial fire, Scholl said. But, when it comes to recycling or scrap yards, he said first responders can’t guarantee they know every kind of material that’s held at a facility.

“Especially with a scrap yard, you never exactly know what’s been brought onto the site,” he said. “So, when our firefighters get there, they take a look, they assess the situation and then they use their training to take care of it.”

With constantly changing materials at recycling and scrap yards, fire inspectors focus on access to fire hydrants, routes for fire trucks and materials stored in smaller piles.

If a facility stores hazardous materials, then the business will have to report what’s on site to the fire department.

Scholl said fires at facilities like this have actually gone down in recent years because the department has made an effort to work with companies to make sure their facilities are safe and organized to prevent the spread of most fires.

Recently, the department has made an effort to reduce the number of fires that break out at mulch facilities. They re-wrote fire code and worked with companies to make sure fire prevention practices were in place.

The department saw 18 fires at mulch facilities in 2013 and, so far, only five in 2014, according to records provided by the fire department.

They plan on working with paper and metal recycling facilities like the ones that experienced fires this week to reduce fires in those kinds of facilities, as well.

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