Fire cause investigated

Fire investigators continue to probe the cause of a Sunday morning blaze at a plastic recycling plant on Riverside Drive.

Nexcycle Plastics Inc. employees work to clean up plastic pellets from the parking lot outside the fire ravaged building Sunday afternoon after an early Sunday morning fire.

Fire investigators continue to probe the cause of a Sunday morning blaze at a plastic recycling plant on Riverside Drive.

Red Deer Emergency Services fire inspector and investigator Al Robichaud said they will likely be on site for several days to pinpoint the cause of the fire at NexCycle Plastics Inc (NPI) at 4746 Riverside Drive. A structural engineer is expected to be called in to add their expertise.

Emergency Services estimated the damage at $3 million, but an NPI official said they are still tallying the cost of the blaze that was spotted around midnight. The plant and its contents were insured.

NPI general manager Kevin Kernaghan said the company has no idea what caused the fire that gutted the part of the plant containing machinery that processes scrap plastics into pellets that can be turned into new products. A warehouse area contained hundreds of tonnes of plastic pellets and damage to inventory is still being assessed.

The company employs about 30 people and Kernaghan said they are trying to get everyone back to work as soon as possible. “Obviously, we’re down to a skeletal staff until we know more and we figure out what we’re going to do,” he said. “Over the next couple of days, it’s just key management people.”

NPI has a second facility next door, which was expected to be back in action later Monday or today.

The companies that supply their scrap plastic to NPI to be converted into pellets will not be affected.

“We’re not anticipating any business interruption to our customers because we have multiple facilities. Now it just becomes a logistical issue.”

Besides the second Red Deer plant, NPI has another facility in Brampton, Ont., where the company has its headquarters. Production can be shifted there if necessary.

The dramatic fire drew a number of onlookers early Sunday morning. They were kept a long distance back by police because of concerns about the clouds of toxic smoke pouring out of the building, where flames could be clearly seen coming from the roof. Despite the darkness, smoke could be seen for several kilometres, said the fire department.

Fire-medics arrived on scene within minutes of the fire being reported by a passerby. But firefighting efforts were hampered by the intensity of the fire, which caused concerns about the structural soundness of the building. At one point, fire-medics could see gaps in a steel and concrete wall caused by the heat.

Platoon chief Peter Barron said the Bronto aerial trucks were deployed and the flames on the roof were doused. Inside, a large pile of pellets was burning and firefighters set up hoses to continuously pour water on the melting stacks.

Large ventilation holes were also cut in the roof to allow the acrid smoke and heat to escape before crews could tackle the fire inside.

About 20 fire-medics fought the fire, which was brought under control about 6 a.m.

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