June 15, 2017
A fire at St. Marys Cement plant in Charlevoix, Mich., destroyed its alternative fuel storage facility Tuesday night, June 6, 2017, but there were no injuries, and the plant remains open while an investigation into the cause of the fire gets under way, the Petoskey News-Review reports. The alternative fuel in the 54-foot by 75-foot storage building is made up of shredded pieces of plastic from used water bottles and other plastic products, which caused heavy, black smoke that could be seen for miles around the area. “Instead of putting this material in landfills, we use a small percentage of that to supplement our use of fossil fuels at the plant,” plant operations manager Randy Pryor told the news outlet.
The Charlevoix Township Fire Department responded to the fire at 8:06 p.m., and was assisted by the East Jordan and Resort Bear Creek fire departments. Charlevoix Township fire chief Dan Thorp told the news agency that the firefighters took the normal precautions. “We made sure everyone was clear of the smoke and toxic fumes, and our guys had the proper gear on and fought the fire with water and foam.” he said. “We shuttled water in from our south station and were also hooked to a hydrant at the plant.”
The fire was contained to that storage facility on the north side of the plant, was knocked down by approximately 9:30 p.m, and the scene was cleared at 11:50 p.m.
Thorp said he is pleased with the new department after the recent merger with the city of Charlevoix.
The incident is not related to the current $130 million expansion project or a contractor working on the expansion project, Pryor told the news agency, adding that the cause of the fire is a mystery to plant officials. “It just baffles me,” he said. “We are looking at the area trying to determine what possibly could have started it. At this point I have no clue. We will try to figure out what caused it.”
Pryor told the news agency that the plant was not actively operating the equipment in the area of the fire, but there were crews in the area throughout the day before the fire. “I think it was the first of April the last time it operated that equipment,” he said. “There were people around that area and there were no reports or signs of smoke or smoldering going on. Then at 8 p.m. last night things changed.”
Pryor said the fire department’s quick response kept people safe and prevented the fire from getting out of control. “My hats off to the fire response teams. They did a great job making sure everything was contained and done safely,” Pryor told the news agency. “They were very professional and did a great job. We made notification to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) as we are required to, and I am sure at some point today they will be in to look into this a little more.”