CRAB ORCHARD — A large pile of tires at SMS Tire Processing caught fire Monday afternoon, bringing firefighters from Lincoln and surrounding counties to help put out the blaze.
Crab Orchard Fire Chief Larry Owsley said Crab Orchard was one of the first fire units on the scene and the big pile of tires was already fully involved.
“I don’t know how it started or where it started,” Owsley said as the tires continued to burn ahead of him.
“It was pretty much involved when we got here,” he said. “We could see the smoke from Crab Orchard.”
Black smoke from the fire could be seen from as far away as Stanford.
At 4 p.m., the pile of tires was still largely on fire, and firefighters were awaiting multiple deliveries of water.
“Everyone is out of water, we’re waiting for more water,” Owsley said.
All Lincoln County Fire Departments were called to the scene, along with surrounding counties.
Owsley said firefighters were focused on bringing the blaze under control while waiting for water.
“We stopped him from burning down a structure on the other side and kept him away from what they call the chipper. We have avoided that so far,” he said.
Owsley said they attempted to use end loaders to split the stacks, but the fire was giving off a large amount of heat, making it difficult to approach.
For burning rubber, foam is often used to help put out the fire, Owsley said, but any large delivery of foam would have to come from Lexington.
“And it must have plenty of water to supply it,” he said. “We have all of Lincoln County, Rockcastle County, Crab Orchard City coming in to bring in extra foam because it’s way beyond our foam capacity, and we have Garrard County tankers coming in.”
The tire fire brought several onlookers who stopped near Ky. Hwy. 618 East to observe the fire and neighbors gathered at the scene to offer assistance.
The Mennonite community stepped in to help firefighters contain the blaze, according to Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director Don Gilliam.
Gilliam said the fire was mostly under control around 7:30 p.m., but little was left of the business and its structures.
“They lost everything,” Gilliam said. “They will have to rebuild.
A building that housed most of the company’s equipment burned down, and the fire left the company a total loss.
The finished product, the shredded tires, is what burned, Gilliam said, representing a significant loss of revenue.
“They still have a lot of products to make. The tires didn’t all burn out,” he said. “Most of the fire was from the shredded product.”
Owner John Simpson told WKYT News the family plans to rebuild the business.
EMA Deputy Director Trish O’Quin, who was on the scene as an EMS employee at the time, said a large portion of the complete tires had been moved.
No injuries were reported.
“It could have been much worse. The Mennonites keeping the water on the house and the vehicles and stuff like that definitely helped,” Gilliam said. “It could have been ugly if there had been more houses, especially with the air quality contamination.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also responded to the scene, due to the issue of air and water pollution from the burning tires.
“They spoke to the owner and the Mennonite community. They won’t have to take any further action,” Gilliam said. “Water runoff is always a concern, whether it enters the stream or the water supply, and it was not, it was actually flowing down a small line of woods and being captured in a pond. The farmer knew.