Fire rips through tire recycling business in Minto

Callooh Callay

A major fire has been burning since Friday evening at a tire recycling plant in Minto, N.B., sending heavy black smoke into the air. More than a dozen fire departments have responded to the blaze, including firefighters from Fredericton, Oromocto, Harvey, Keswick Ridge, Jemseg and Douglas Harbour.  The Upper Kingsclear Fire Department was […]

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A major fire has been burning since Friday evening at a tire recycling plant in Minto, N.B., sending heavy black smoke into the air.

More than a dozen fire departments have responded to the blaze, including firefighters from Fredericton, Oromocto, Harvey, Keswick Ridge, Jemseg and Douglas Harbour. 

The Upper Kingsclear Fire Department was called to the scene at TRACC Tire Recycling at around 5 a.m., said fire chief Murray Crouse, but other fire departments had battled the blaze overnight. Firefighters with the Minto Fire Department have been on scene since around 10:30 p.m.

“It’s [a] major, major deal,” Crouse said.

Firefighters in Minto have been battling a blaze at the TRACC Tire Recycling plant that started around 10:30 p.m. on Friday. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Jacques Mills owns Alternate Waste Management Corp., a business next door to the fire. Mills, who is friends with the owner of TRACC tire recycling, said there are no injuries and the building appears to be intact. But the tire yard is burning, creating heavy smoke.

Mills described the fire as “devastating” for the village, which has a population of around 2,300.

“We’re all very, very concerned,” Mills said. “It’s the largest employer left in Minto.” 

TRACC tire recycling employs around 50 people, he said. 

Gregory Gilmore, deputy chief of the Keswick Ridge Fire Department, said the fire may have started in the building and spread outside to the tire yard. About 60 firefighters are still on scene, he said. He expects crews will be battling the fire and smoke for days — possibly weeks. 

Clouds of smoke can be seen in the sky over Minto, where tires from a tire recycling plant are burning. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Gilmore said there’s minimal risk to people in the area today because the smoke is staying high in the sky. If the wind changes direction or becomes stronger, the smoke could steer closer to the ground, however.

As the fire cools down, the smoke will settle near the ground and could make it difficult for people to breathe. 

Geoffrey Downey, spokesperson for New Brunswick’s Emergency Measures Organization, said anyone struggling to breathe should seek medical attention immediately. There have been no reports of breathing difficulties related to the fire so far, he said. 

WG Bishop Nursing Home is located down the road from the the tire recycling plant, but the plume is staying away from the nursing home so far, Downey said. 

Geoffrey Downey, spokesperson for New Brunswick’s Emergency Measures Organization, cautioned people in the Minto area to seek medical attention if they start to experience breathing problems from the smoke.

“The ventilation system [at the nursing home] has been shut off and they aren’t in any distress at this point,” Downey said. 

EMO is advising people in the Minto and Chipman areas to avoid the smoke coming from the building. The organization said residents should stay indoors, close windows, avoid outdoor activities and turn off air exchangers.

The New Brunswick government issued an air quality advisory Saturday afternoon urging Minto residents to take precautions to avoid smoke exposure.

If conditions become more severe, some may experience irritated eyes and throat and shortness of breath, the release said. People with respiratory conditions and cardiovascular conditions may be more susceptible to the impact of the heavy smoke.

Smoke from the TRACC Tire Recycling fire can be seen billowing in the sky from about 60 kilometres outside of Minto along the Trans-Canada Highway. (Radio-Canada)

RCMP are advising drivers there may be delays on Route 10 toward Minto. Route 10 is closed from Post Road and Northside Drive.

According to the company’s website, TRACC takes in about a million tires a year and turns them into recycled products. The manufacturing company is located at 149 Industrial Park Rd. in Minto.

Residents react to fire

Dianne Gibbons, who lives just a couple of minutes from the recycling facility, said she and her husband were out checking the stove fire in his garage early Saturday morning when he saw the smoke.

“He come to the door and he told me to put my coat on and come to the end of the driveway,” she said. “And when I seen that, I was just, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s devastating.’ It’s just big, black, heavy, heavy smoke.”

Gibbons said although the smoke is blowing away from her house at the moment, she’s nervous about the wind changing directions.

About 30 fire departments are tackling a blaze at Minto’s TRACC tire recycling plant. (Submitted by Tammy Best)

Tammy Best, who lives about two kilometres from the fire, was wrapping Christmas gifts with her daughter around 11:30 p.m. on Friday when she saw fire trucks from Chipman racing to the TRACC facility. 

“We knew something serious was going on,” Best said. 

The Bests own a trucking and excavating company, so her husband and 16-year-old son are helping to keep the flames down by removing tires from the TRACC property and refuelling the fire trucks. She’s been in contact with her husband, who says the flames could last for days. 

“We’re going to rally around this and things are going to be OK,” said Best.

Premier Blaine Higgs took to Twitter to thank emergency responders for their “quick action” in battling the overnight blaze. Kris Austin, provincial leader of the People’s Alliance Party and Minto’s MLA, also called the fire “devastating for the community” and said he was concerned about the environmental and health risks for people in the area.

This is the second business fire to devastate the village in two and half years. In June 2017, Minto’s only grocery store burned to the ground. It was rebuilt last year.

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