PILOT MOUNTAIN — The fire at the New River Tire Recycling plant will take three to four days to burn itself out and continues to send plumes of black smoke into the air, authorities said.
The fire started early Tuesday morning and caused the part of the building’s roof to collapse. No one was injured.
Authorities decided to allow the fire to burn itself out partly because the water that firefighters initially used to put out the blaze flowed into the plant’s stormwater drain, bringing with it debris from the burning material, said John Shelton, the director of Surry County Emergency Services.
Most of the burning material is rubber tires and mulch made from tires.
The stormwater flows into a tributary of Toms Creek behind the plant.
Investigators are still trying determine what sparked the fire, which started in a storage area for recycled material.
In an effort to help put out the blaze, crews will remove sections of the roof and use construction equipment to pull burning material out of the building, Shelton said.
The burning material then will be placed in tanks of water, said Ken Rhame, an official with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
When the material is safe to be moved, it will be stored temporarily at an outdoor site at the 8.32 acre plant, he said.
Authorities then will determine an appropriate waste disposal site for the material, Rhame said.
The smoke from the smoldering fire reached about 200 feet into the air Wednesday. The smoke drifted north-eastward toward southern Surry County Wednesday amid wind speeds that ranged from 15 to 20 mph, Shelton said.
“It’s a nuisance to the community,” Rhame said about the drifting smoke.
Authorities are advising local residents to avoid areas where the smoke is drifting. EPA officials are testing the air quality in the area. So far, no hazardous areas have been detected, Shelton said.
A handful of residents with concerns about the smoke and its potential effects on their health have talked to authorities, Shelton said. EPA officials also are monitoring the water quality of a tributary behind the plant, he said.
New River Tire Recycling, which opened in 2014, shreds scrap tires and produces rubber mulch, fuel and material for construction projects, according to its website. It has three employees and an estimated $170,000 in annual revenue. The building has 279,111 square feet, according to Surry County tax records.
Ben Bryant, the plant’s owner, declined to comment about the fire or his plans for the business.
Several people who work in businesses across the road from the plant said that the drifting smoke is troublesome.
Edd Lindley, the owner of Edd Lindley Auto Sales at 429 E. 52 Bypass, said that the smoke irritated his nose and sinuses Tuesday.
“It was like having a sinus infection,” Lindley said. “One of my employees couldn’t work today because he has asthma, and the smoke bothered him.”