Crews respond to fire, explosions at Vinton recycling plant

Crews respond to fire, explosions at Vinton recycling plant

POSTED: Saturday, February 15, 2014 - 5:42pm

UPDATED: Sunday, February 16, 2014 - 3:57pm

A fire Saturday afternoon at the ArcelorMittal metal recycling plant in Vinton, lead to a series of small explosions.

Now some Vinton residents are not only concerned about the response time, but also about the risk of it happening again.

Carlos Ortiz lives in Vinton, near the plant. He was on his way back home when he saw the smoke from Anthony. As soon as he got closer, he said he knew exactly where it was coming from.

"This isn't the first time I've seen a fire there," said Ortiz.

When he got closer, he pulled out his phone, and started to record the first few minutes of the fire.

Ortiz says he was there for almost 25 minutes before the West Valley Volunteer Fire Department responded.

"By that time the fire was pretty much knocked out," Ortiz said.

El Paso County Sheriff's spokesperson Deputy Mariano Valle said the fire started a little after 3:30 Saturday afternoon when a conveyor belt inside the plant stopped working properly. .

"We aren't sure as to how the malfunction occurred,” he said. “After the malfunction, the fire broke out and there was a small series of explosions."

"People take junk metal there. You could have refrigerants in some of the old refrigerators and freezers. Or oil from motors,” said Ortiz. “We don't know what's in the plant."

Deputy Valle said Carlos' concern is something sheriff's and firefighters share with him.

"You never know with these commercial metal places,” said Valle. “Sometimes the scrap that they use, you just don't know what's contained inside them. Fires here at these kind of metal places are very very dangerous."

It took workers at the plant and the West Valley Fire Department nearly 45 minutes to put out the flames.

Even though no one was hurt during this fire, Carlos is already thinking about what will happen if another fire breaks out at the plant.

"We have an all volunteers fire department. Why would you want to have a plant like that where you can't fight a fire? What if it were to get out of hand?”

Deputy Valles says the damage is estimated at $3,000 and the plant is expected to be back up and running soon.

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