Massive fire burns at a plastic recycling yard in Glendale

A massive fire sparked at a plastic and vegetable oil recycling yard Saturday night and sent a huge plume of smoke into the air for all of the Valley to see.

The fire broke out near US 60 and 67th Avenue at a recycling yard around 6 p.m.

"While en route, this was upgraded to a vehicle fire with information about a semi truck on fire in an unknown yard. This was again upgraded while they were still en route to a full semi truck and trailer on fire and balanced to a working fire with exposures to a building," Glendale Fire said.

An explosion was reported and is thought to have been a fuel tank. Tankers full of vegetable oil also burned.

By the time first responders arrived, they found that a plastic recycling yard in the area was engulfed in flames. Multiple power lines were down, and the call was upgraded to a second-alarm hazmat.

Glendale Fire says additional help was requested from nearby fire departments, including Phoenix and Peoria, Tempe and Tolleson.

Near the recycling yard – which authorities say also processes pet food, containers for the food and vegetable oil – there's a roofing company nearby and is believed to have been burned down.

What started the fire isn't known, but within a few hours, firefighters pretty much had the fire out.

As of 8:40 p.m., Glendale Fire's Assistant Chief Ken Barnes said the "fire is just about out" and that crews are in a good place as far as the firefight goes.

At least 75 firefighters responded to the blaze. One firefighter was hospitalized for heat-related illness, but no other injuries were reported.

Barnes says neighborhoods within 2 blocks of the scene were evacuated, and the railroad was closed for 14 hours.

The National Weather Service in Phoenix says the fire was visible on the weather radar.

"The fire in Glendale visible across Phoenix is being detected by the Phoenix weather radar. On radar you can also see a couple of outflow boundaries moving down from the north. Wind gusts up to 20-25 mph will be following the outflows."

US 60 was shut down at 67th Avenue and Northern in all directions for hours while firefighters responded. The roadways are now back open.

Aug. 17 update

City officials in Glendale say air quality in the area of the fire is safe, and continues to be monitored daily.

Firefighters, according to city officials, are still monitoring the fire, as well as extinguishing flare-ups and hot spots.

"The water used by the firefighters, along with the burned vegetable oil and plastic materials, have caused a runoff collecting in the retention basin. While testing will continue to ensure safety, citizens should avoid coming in contact with the wastewater and take responsibility for children and pets. The city of Glendale has enlisted an environmental mitigation company to clean up the area along with Glendale Fire to actively remove the waste," read a portion of the statement.

City-provided drinking water, according to officials, are being tested multiple times daily, and the water is tested at the highest quality.

Aug. 14 update

Glendale Fire sent out more details about the fire a few days later.

"The fire was contained after six hours of defensive operations, but firefighters have remained on site to check and extinguish any hot spots and flare-ups," said Glendale Fire Department Capt. Kyle Borg.

He says the department understands that recycling yard fires are "notoriously difficult to extinguish completely."

"I had my mask on yesterday because I didn’t know what was over there. I was very worried about that and plus it was so hot, and at night it got smoky. I went this morning to take pictures of the aftermath and it was fine and then later on this afternoon it just started up again, hot spots," said a person who did not want to be identified. That person lives in the area.

The department asks anyone who notices smoke at the site to call 911 immediately. Monsoon season usually kicks up winds, which could fan embers, sparking flames.

"We are also working to clear the streets of runoff, which is a challenge when the fire continues to rekindle, requiring large volumes of water to properly extinguish," Borg said.

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Photo from Anissa Brown

Map of where the fire is burning: