Fire damages equipment at Michiana Recycling & Disposal

Published 9:51 am Wednesday, May 2, 2018

NILES — A fire that occurred at Michiana Recycling & Disposal Services, 33541 Reum Road, in the early morning Tuesday damaged equipment, but did not cause any injuires. Refuse from the fire is also suspected to have caused a truck fire that occurred later in the day.

The fire began at about 12:20 a.m. in the material recovery facility where trash is sorted. According to Henry Valkema, president of the company, crews finished working inside the building at about midnight Tuesday. No one was inside the facility when the fire began. Valkema said front load drivers work in the early morning hours and a driver saw smoke coming from the building while he was working. The driver called the fire department to report the smoke.

The fire began in a bunker, which Valkema described as a closed off area below conveyor belts where sorted materials go. Valkema said an overhead sprinkler system helped to contain the flames until the fire department could arrive and put it out.

On Tuesday, residential trash routes were delayed by about two hours. Some commercial customer services were not picked up Tuesday, because there was nowhere to dump the materials, according to Valkema.

Valkema said he does not know at this time what the cost of damage will be. Two of the company’s 30 conveyor belts, where workers sort through the trash, were damaged. The belts will be replaced and some of the equipment will need rewiring. 

Valkema said he hopes to have repairs completed within the next two to three days. Until then, he said the company will remain in operation as repairs are being made.

“It’s going to be a little bit of a pain but we will work through it,” Valkema said.

Fire authorities temporarily shut down Reum Road Tuesday, so that they could use the street to connect hoses to nearby water sources.

While it will take some work to make repairs, Valkema said the situation could have been worse.

“We are grateful that no one got hurt and that there was minimal damage,” Valkema said.

He also expressed gratitude to local firefighters and first responders who helped to fight the fire in the early morning hours. 

Tuesday afternoon, a truck that was hauling paper refuse from the facility caught fire at about 1:30 p.m. while it was being transported. A small patch of grass also caught fire but was put out, Sherrick said.

The driver of the truck observed the fire while traveling westbound on U.S. 12 near Weaver Road. The driver detached the truck from the smoldering receptacle and contacted authorities.

Firefighters from Niles Township and Bertrand Township responded to the blaze. Two firetruck units were on scene.

Lt. Josh Sherrick, with the Niles Township Fire Department, said authorities speculate that a remaining ember from the fire early in the day was sparked while the refuse was being transported.

Authorities shut down a portion of the right lane on U.S. 12 as they battled the blaze. Sherrick said authorities soaked the paper in water to put the blaze out. The thickness of the mass of paper was one challenge in putting out the fire. Sherrick said they planned to have a Bobcat tractor transport some of the material to another container to open it up and make it easier to soak with water. 

“We will just soak it down until we get it out,” Sherrick said.