Officials investigate second fire at former recycling site

For the second time in seven months, local emergency responders found themselves at the scene of a fire at a former recycling site just north of Uniontown.

The fire was reported around 6 p.m. Friday on the 19-acre site owned by Charlotte W. Helt, who once operated Helt Enterprises-Recycling with her late husband, Roger W. Helt. Charlotte still lives in a home on the property at 10770 E. County Road 125S, Seymour.

No injuries were reported. The cause is still under investigation, said Ben Spencer, deputy chief of the Crothersville-Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Officers from the Crothersville Police Department and Jackson County Sheriff’s Department interviewed a potential suspect at the scene. The state fire marshal was being called to the scene, too.

The cause of the last fire at the site Nov. 14 also never was determined and still is being investigated, Spencer said.

That fire required officials from seven Jackson County fire departments, while Friday’s blaze took five.

This time, though, the temperature was in the 80s.

“It’s a little worse,” Spencer said of Friday’s fire. “(The one in November) was really cool. This day, not so much, so my main concern is just getting the firefighters rehabilitated, getting them in and out.”

Spencer had them take frequent breaks so they wouldn’t get fatigued.

Despite having 15 firefighters battling the fire at one point, Spencer said he needed more manpower. Along with Crothersville-Vernon, firefighters at the scene were from Grassy Fork, Jackson-Washington, Redding and Brownstown townships. Jackson County Emergency Medical Services personnel also responded.

“Our main concern is obviously the air temperature first off,” Spencer said. “On us, it’s the wear and tear. We’re wearing 60 to 80 pounds worth of gear. Our main concern now is just fatigue.”

Once he arrived at the scene, Spencer said he immediately felt the heat from the fire.

“There was so much heat that when I got out of my truck, I could feel it from my truck,” he said.

Firefighters first extinguished a pile of plastic and wood that was on fire on the south edge of the former recycling site. They didn’t want the fire to reach a nearby home, which has vinyl siding, and a shed.

Once that was contained, firefighters worked their way back toward a wooded area.

Logan Isenhower, a Crothersville-Vernon firefighter, said Friday’s fire was a little farther into the woods on the northeast side of the property. With the November fire, it was only about 25 yards into the woods, he said.

Firefighters in two brush trucks worked to keep that area at bay Friday, Isenhower said.

Spencer said he also was worried about cylinders containing chemicals that had flames coming out of them in the middle of the property.

He didn’t expect firefighters to be at the scene as long Friday because most of the site burned in November.

The day of the first fire, firefighters spent about six hours at the scene. Then the next day, they were there nearly 16 hours. It was difficult to extinguish because of the materials involved, which included plastic, tires, pallets and other materials, Spencer said.

A fire also was reported in April 2000 when the site still operated. That fire involved similar materials and included one minor injury of an employee.