What is Simcoe’s Plan for Port Lands-style fire at Proposed ERRC?
County planning a similar waste management facility for Freele Forest, with no publicly available fire response plan ready
SPRINGWATER TOWNSHIP, MAY 25 - A massive blaze at a recycling plant on Toronto’s waterfront should be a wake-up call to County Councillors still considering an Environmental Resource Recovery Centre (ERRC) for a Simcoe County forest, says Friends of Simcoe Forests.
The six-alarm fire involved a reported 68 fire trucks, plus a fire boat pumping water directly from nearby Lake Ontario, working overnight from 1am to 7:30am to bring it under control, with firefighting efforts assisted by rainy weather. It is unclear how Simcoe County would be able to respond to a similar fire at the proposed ERRC in the Freele Forest.
Fires at recycling and waste management facilities are not uncommon, and these buildings are classified High Hazard due to the frequency and severity of the fire risk. Other recent incidents include:
October 2016 fire at a Wasteco Plant in Hamilton
April 2016 fire at that same Wasteco Plant
Six fires at the same Wasteco Plant over an eight year period
August 2016 fire at a “Centre of Excellence” waste facility in Edmonton
A fire at the BFI plant in Springwater Township four years ago
A multi-million dollar fire at a waste recycling facility in Cambridge in 2015
A fire last year at an Ajax garbage waste disposal building
Three US recycling facilities caught fire in the same month last year
“It took over six hours for the full time firefighting department in Toronto to put out a recycling centre fire on the waterfront, within sight of Lake Ontario,” said Mary Wagner of Friends of Simcoe Forests. “Now imagine that same fire in the middle of a forest in Simcoe County next to our homes, opposed by Springwater’s volunteer fire department. It’s unconscionable that County would consider endangering lives this way.”
The Master Fire Plan for Springwater included a review of Standard Incident Reports, which noted the difficulties the volunteer crew has in response time, a problem that would be even more significant with a large industrial fire:
“The response by the fire department continues to struggle to place an effective attack group on emergency scenes in a timely and efficient manner, specifically daytime response. The firefighters arrive at incidents in small numbers over a lengthy time frame – three or four in 10 minutes and would accumulate to sixteen or seventeen in 15 to 20 minutes. This response allows fires to get larger, reduces successful rescues and adds greater risk to the safety of ratepayers, the travelling public and firefighters.”
Friends of Simcoe Forests has long argued against placing this waste management facility in a County forest instead of on industrial property where fire hazards can be properly mitigated. As demonstrated by the Port Lands blaze, these facilities pose an incredible risk even when well managed and with sufficient infrastructure. The group is questioning whether Council has properly considered the full ramifications of the project, and if they have considered the incredible demands this will place on fire services throughout the County and the insurance rates of local residents.
“The County’s plan for fire prevention at the ERRC includes designated smoking areas for workers, but it doesn’t appear to have a fire response plan yet, ” said Cindy Mercer of Friends. “They have no idea if they would even be able to contain a typical fire at a facility of this size, let alone how, and yet they are still plowing ahead with plans to build this thing. There’s just no justification for it.”
Springwater Township is served by a mostly volunteer fire department of 92 firefighters in four stations, with five pumper trucks and four tanker trucks. Nearby Barrie is served by a fire department with approximately 30 trucks.
About Friends of Simcoe County Forests
The Friends of Simcoe Forests Inc. is a Non-Profit organization consisting of concerned citizens within the region of Simcoe County, Ontario.
Our long term goal is to inform and unite all persons interested in the conservation of our County’s forests. We encourage all local residents, visitors and friends of our environment to realize that they have the ability to enjoy the natural flora and fauna of the region, as well as the natural beauties of the forests within Simcoe County. As a group we encourage beautification, preservation, and extension of parks and Green Belts.
Through our mutual love and concern for the county’s forests, we strive to make available all known statistical, scientific, horticultural and botanical information that positively impacts the future of our forests.
It is our goal to promote the protection and appreciation of the environment and lands which are there for all of us and future generations to use and enjoy.
Visit our website for more information.