Cleanup begins after fire breaks out at recycling center

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WILLIAMSPORT, LYCOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Crews in Lycoming County spent hours on end battling a raging third alarm fire at a recycling facility on Monday. Smoke plumes could still be seen throughout the city on Tuesday.

Tuesday morning, firefighters were already pushing 20 hours in, tackling flames at Penn Recycling Center. Officials tell Eyewitness News the overall size of the pile at the onset of the incident was the diameter of a football field.

“Well I couldn’t figure out what that smell was for a long time,” Deanna Whitford of Newberry said.

“City fire needs a break. We have a Little League World Series starting tomorrow,” Williamsport Bureau of Fire chief Todd Heckman said.

You can still see the sweltering smoke rising up from a large pile at Penn Recycling Center.

“I was scared because my grandmom is right on Webb Street and it was right close to her,” Melissa White of Williamsport said.

Shortly after 2:30 on Monday afternoon, flames broke out at the recycling facility on Trenton Avenue in Williamsport. You could see the smoke for miles.

“Like a dense fog, especially at nighttime. I wanted to see the star show last night but you couldn’t see the sky,” Whitford said.

The scrap pile that went ablaze contains everything from vehicles, machinery, hydraulic equipment and plastics, all items that go in the shredder.

“Both sides of the shredder are always going to be worst-case scenario when you get a fire. They’re always long-term drawn-out incidents,” Heckman said.

Heckman estimates more than four million gallons of water were used to put out the fire. Right now, there’s no clear answer as to what started it.

“You get into the piles like this so deep, just internal heating, combustion, you had an 85-degree day yesterday. Mechanical equipment always moving, employee’s cigarette butt. The pile’s so huge, it’s hard to say,” Heckman said.

While no one was hurt, an air quality advisement was issued by the fire department to alert residents of the unknown hazards contained in the smoke plume. Closing windows and using central air conditioning is recommended.

“I did that last night. I had everything shut up,” Whitford said.

“It is very important to keep your windows shut so smoke don’t get in the house,” White said.

Heckman also tells Eyewitness News this is the sixth time he’s been called to a fire at Penn Recycling Center.

We’re told no one is in danger in the area and buildings on the property are not at risk.

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