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Blaze at Lafayette recycling center was set

Sat, Mar 23, 2013

Off The Beat

Lafayette Recycling

A fire last weekend that destroyed the facility where Lafayette’s recycling is processed was likely sparked by a person, either accidentally or intentionally, Lafayette Fire Department spokesman Alton Trahan said Friday to The Advocate.

Trahan said the fire is still under investigation, but it is not believed to have been caused by an electrical problem or malfunctioning machine.

“We do believe that it was some kind of human intervention that caused the fire,” he said.

The blaze began on the evening of March 16, and firefighters worked through rubble for three days pulling apart smoldering bails of paper and cardboard to make sure the fire was out.

Trahan said firefighters had to rip down the three metal buildings at the site to access the tall stacks of recycled materials, and Recycling Foundation Division Manager Steven Cheatham said all of the processing equipment was destroyed in the blaze.

Investigators have been interviewing residents in the area and anyone else who might have seen something, but have not determined if the fire was arson or an accident, possibly caused by a tossed cigarette butt, Trahan said.

The facility was closed and no workers were on site when the fire started, Trahan said, but much of the facility on I-G Lane is open and accessible.

Cheatham said curbside recycling will continue here without interruption, but Lafayette’s recycling will be taken to the Recycling Foundation facilities in Baton Rouge, where the company also has a contract to handle curbside recycling.

Residents living outside Lafayette who do not have curbside recycling can continue to bring recyclables to the I-G Lane location, but Cheatham said the materials should be dropped off during daylight hours.

No decision has been made on when or where the Recycling Foundation will rebuild in Lafayette, he said.

“We are a little ways off from making those decisions,” Cheatham said.

The Recycling Foundation was the site of another fire in 2010.

That fire started when the heat from the exhaust system on a piece of heavy equipment ignited recycled material, Trahan said.

He said any newly built recycling facility in Lafayette would possibly need a sprinkler system or other fire suppression system under stricter requirements that did not apply to the older facility, which was built when fire codes were not as extensive.

“Coming from the ground up, they would have to meet those new requirements,” Trahan said.

Lafayette City-Parish Council Chairman Brandon Shelvin cited the two fires this week when he proposed a new law that would ban recycling facilities anywhere in the parish.

No vote has been scheduled on his proposal.

The recycling facility is in Shelvin’s council district, and he said residents in the area complained of a thick cloud of smoke that blanketed the area during the fire.

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