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Hot Slag Over Trash Can Lead to Incendiary Results

Fire inspectors say the recent fire at a waste transfer station off Route 1 was caused by pieces of hot metal falling from cutting and welding work on the roof to piles of trash below.

Peabody firefighters battle a fire inside the Allied Waste facility at 300 Forest St. on Oct. 30. Credit: File photo
Peabody firefighters battle a fire inside the Allied Waste facility at 300 Forest St. on Oct. 30. Credit: File photo
Peabody Fire Inspector Chris Dowling said the cause of that recent two-alarm trash fire up at Allied Waste was hot slag from the roof falling onto the combustible refuse below and igniting the pile.

How did that happen? Contractors were repairing the roof of the building, which involved cutting and welding.

The problem was no one notified the Fire Department or renewed the applicable permit and therefore there was no firefighter on a safety detail at the time.

That's a violation of the fire code.

Dowling said a fire watch detail wouldn't necessarily have ensured against a fire, but the problem could have been spotted much sooner and quickly contained.

He said two firefighters who received injuries would also likely have been spared that pain.

Dowling said there have been fires periodically at the waste transfer station at 300 Forest St. over the years, but the company has always been good about complying with safety regulations.

This time, however, the company received a permit this summer to make temporary repairs to the roof, which it did, with the intent of further work at a later date.

Dowling said the permit expired at the end of July and that was the last inspectors heard from Allied Waste before the Oct. 30 fire.

The existing condition of the roof was preventing the interior sprinkler system from operating properly, Dowling said, although the sprinklers were still activated that day by the heat of the blaze.

He said the system has to be fixed and may not be adequate for the amount of refuse stored inside. There did not appear to be much structural damage to the building -- it's made of non-combustible materials -- but the entire facility had to be emptied once the fire was under control.

When Dowling spoke with contractors the day of the fire, they told him it was supposed to be their last day on the job. They estimated full repairs, both to the roof and sprinkler system, could take at least a week.

Dowling said a fire watch detail was to remain on site until the sprinkler system was fully operational and any fines against the company would be an administrative decision.

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