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Fire at Royal Oak Recycling started in large baling machine

Dec 27, 2023Dec 27, 2023

A fire inside a massive machine that smashes and bales paper caught fire at the Royal Oak Recycling building.

Royal Oak firefighters were called to the building at 414 E. Hudson, a block east of Main Street, at 4:25 p.m. Monday.

Royal Oak Fire Inspector Scott Gardner said all the employees had been evacuated from the building when firefighters arrived in two fire engines and a ladder truck.

There was a similar fire in a recycling baler at the company Sept. 20, 2022.

"Every so often you can get a contaminant like batteries that people put in with their paper for recycling that can ignite the paper," Gardner said. "We suspect there was some foreign object in the paper that caused the fire."

Other items, such as pieces of wood, in the paper can also cause a fire in a baler.

"You’d be surprised at some of the stuff people put in their recycling," Gardner said.

The fire was confined to the baling machine and no one was injured, fire officials said.

Part of the process of recycling paper at the facility includes a hammer mill that smashes paper and other materials before the machine bales the recycled paper, Gardner said.

Though firefighters were unable to determine exactly what ignited the fire Monday, he added that 9 volt batteries are notorious for starting fires in waste paper.

The baler where Monday's fire started is an L-shaped machine that is over two stories tall and about seven feet wide.

Fires at Royal Oak Recycling are somewhat common and building employees and Royal Oak firefighters are experienced in responding to them, Gardner said.

The first thing recycling employees do when baler fires happen is shut off all electrical power in the building, get everyone out of the building and do a head count.

"Then we showed up and dumped water and foam" into the baler, Gardner said. "All that paper in the baler is so dense the water sometimes doesn't get into some of the paper because it's soe (densely) packed."

Firefighters extinguished the fire within 50 minutes.

"The machine had burn damage to the outside," Gardner said, "but there was no structural damage to the building, which happens very rarely.".

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