SPRINGFIELD, Mich. - The smokey sky has blanketed the area surrounding Springfield Metal Recyclers for nearly one week with several piles of plastic still smoldering.
Last Friday, bales of plastic caught fire on the 150 acre former Clark Industrial site. The owner, David Armour, told FOX 17 the cause of the fire was human error, and explained there was so much baled plastic from a previous owner inside the condemned building that it was almost like a "hoarding" situation.
“The plastic has always been our biggest problem, our biggest worry, our biggest nightmare then due to human error it became a real problem for the community and for us too," said Armour.
An employee used a torch instead of shears to remove part of a hanging steel roof on a condemned building. Armour said sparks from that torch started the fire and black smoke that could be seen for at least one mile away. At one point, the steel roof fell onto the burning plastic, stopping crews from getting inside to put out the burning patches of plastic.
Armour apologized to neighbors who have to deal with the smoke. He said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was on site and tested the burning plastic to be non-toxic food grade.
“I would like to apologize to our neighbors because they were getting smoked out," said Armour. "The best part of it is no one got hurt and all of the plastic that was in there was food grade plastic, there was no toxic fumes.”
One neighbor who does not wish to be named told FOX 17 she has been stuck inside for the week, dealing with heavy black smoke and now a "garbage smell."
“I’m concerned about breathing the ash and stuff," she said. "The air is not good; even my animals are staying in more than normal.”
Crews continued to water the smoking patches Thursday as they cleared paths to get to the smoldering areas. Armour said he is grateful for all of the support from several fire departments, city officials, and hundreds of volunteers.
“It was incredible: it brings tears to my eyes literally," said Armour. “We caused a lot of ruckus and the city they could have been hostile, they have not been: they have been really supportive. We so appreciate that because we got our hands full.”
Since a condemned building could not be insured, Armour told FOX 17 SMR had no insurance and the $100,000 loss and damaged equipment comes out of their pocket. Though he said they are moving forward with clean-up and plans to recycle metal.
“Now we have all this intermixed plastic and steel that we have to sort through," Armour said. "So yes it did set us back, but we’re survivors and we’re very determined so we’ll just keep driving on.”