Sims Metal Management must staff its recycling center around the clock with three qualified operators and cooperate with frequent random inspections if it wants to remain open during investigations of two recent fires that happened within five weeks.
City officials called a press conference Monday to outline its list of stipulations to the Seaport Boulevard business and assure residents public safety is a priority. Mayor Jeff Gee also said if Sims fails to adhere to the orders — which also includes it reporting hazardous conditions and allowing the city review qualifications of its operators — the city will look at options for shutting it down.
The city has policing powers to do so, said City Manager Bob Bell.
But Gee said Sims has been very cooperative with the city following the Nov. 10 and Dec. 17 fires and he doesn’t anticipate them not abiding by its written agreement to comply. A Sims representative said they are behind the city’s requests and are adding even more fire prevention measures specific to shredder infeed scrap stockpiles where the two fires occurred. The business pushed up the latest delivery time for scrap metal and at the end of each workday will “shred to the ground” which means there will be no stockpiles of unprocessed scrap metal, said Jill Rodby, the public relations and government affairs manager for Sims’ northern California region.
The city’s directives let Sims remain operational while Redwood City officials meet with other governmental agencies about their own investigations and identify any changes Sims might be ordered to make. The steps will take at least 60 days beginning Monday, Dec. 23 and running though Feb. 21 although the city could extend the agreement if necessary.
Rodby said the company wants to regain the city and community’s respect through its actions and will be holding outreach meetings to the public early next year. She said Sims will also open its doors for visits by interested groups, officials and regulatory agencies.
“We are committed to the environment, to our employees and to our Bay Area community and you can be assured that we will be working diligently in the coming weeks and months to regain your trust,” Rodby said in a prepared statement.
At the time of the after hours fire, Sims had only a security guard at the facility because it was not operating. Under the city’s new demands, three qualified operators will be present 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the company will halt operations if staffing levels fall short.
Bell said the operators are necessary because in the event of a fire they are needed to help move combustible parts.
After the Nov. 10 fire, Sims reportedly collaborated with regional bodies to implement fire prevention strategies but Gee said they obviously weren’t enough.
“To attempt to explain how regrettable these fires have been and the city’s frustration and concern over the two recent fires would be a challenge to put into words,” Gee said.
The Dec. 17 fire was initially reported at 1 a.m. as a small explosion but fire crews raised the level to “structure fire.” The fire was under control by 7:30 a.m. and fully out by 10:15 a.m. There were no injuries but smoke and the smell of burning rubber was reported as far away as Morgan Hill.
Compounding the situation, the second fire fell on the 10th consecutive Spare the Air Day for the Bay Area.
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