It will be at least a week before samples taken from a Redwood City metal recycling facility fire are analyzed by officials with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which has the authority to issue a public nuisance violation against the company should it determine that the fire contaminated regional air quality.
BAAQMD spokesman Ralph Borrmann said Wednesday that the district took air samples from a monitoring station in Redwood City two miles from the scene of Sunday’s fire at the Sims Metal Management at 699 Seaport Blvd. in the city’s industrial sector.
The fire, which ignited a heap of crushed cars and other large material at around 1:20 p.m., caused several agencies to issue shelter-in-place alerts to residents. Nobody was injured in the fire and officials say they’ll never know what ignited the pile of heavy recyclables.
“With any recycling center that breaks apart materials with machinery, there will be heat generated by friction,” said Redwood City Fire Marshal Jim Palisi. “We’ll never know the exact ignition source — it’s not like a building fire — there’s no definite area of ignition to pinpoint. But we know it wasn’t natural, not arson and not deliberately set,” he said.
Fire crews from throughout the county aided Redwood City fire crews in battling the blaze, which took firefighters seven hours to control. The fire was extinguished at 6:10 a.m. Monday. All health alerts were lifted around 6:20 a.m. Monday.
Palisi said there is a specific protocol for fighting a fire in a metal shredding facility and due to the tidy manner in which Sims segregates its recycling piles, the fire was easier to control.
“We had good access, good water supply and because of the segregated piles, it wasn’t likely to spread to the other piles,” Palisi said.
On Sunday, due to the weather conditions this time of year, the smoke was trapped close to the ground, impacting sensitive respiratory groups, Borrmann said. An air quality sample taken that day indicated a level of 39 micrograms per cubic meter, four micrograms above the federal standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter allowed before an alert is issued.
By Monday, however, that number had dropped, due in part to a weather system.
“As the smoke dissipated, it dropped — the increase in poor air quality was related to the fire,” Borrmann said.
In April 2007, there was a fire at the same recycling center and the BAAQMD was forced to levy a public nuisance violation due to the large quantities of contaminates that annoy or cause a nuisance to the public, according to Borrmann.
The BAAQMD inspects and regulates all shredding facilities for the dust emissions that come off the shredder and has broad authority in issuing violations if any state or federal rules are broken, Borrmann said.