May 31, 2020

Careless recycling blamed for CSWD fire

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

A nonrecyclable material placed in a residential recycling bin is the suspected cause of a Tuesday fire at the Chittenden Solid Waste District’s recycling processing center in Williston

The district’s Materials Recovery Facility on Avenue C was closed for the night when a building alarm alerted firefighters to the scene about 5 p.m.

The Williston Fire Department, along with help from neighboring departments, extinguished the fire, then excavated through a pile of cardboard and other mixed recyclables on the floor of the facility to extinguish any smoldering hot spots.

One firefighter was transported to UVM Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Williston Fire Department Spokesman Prescott Nadeau. The facility sustained minor wall damage and had reopened for materials processing by mid-day Wednesday.

CSWD Spokesman Jonny Finity said camera footage is being reviewed to learn more about how the fire started.

“It was likely something that was buried in a pile of material — something that didn’t belong in a recycling bin,” Finity said.

Observer courtesy photo
Williston firefighters arrive on the scene Tuesday of a fire at the CSWD recycling processing center on Avenue C.

Lithium batteries, chemicals and propane are all fire hazards when mixed with accepted recycling bin materials like paper, cardboard and bottles, he advised. The district offers battery, propane and hazardous material recycling at its drop-off centers throughout the county and its Environmental Depot in South Burlington.

“We can’t control what people put in their recycling bins, but we can remind people at every opportunity that their bin is reserved for a specific set of materials,” said Finity. “Something like this could be prevented by people learning what is recyclable and not putting other things in their bins.”