Changes made following rubber factory fire
Stacks of rubber mats burn last June 9 in the yard at North West Rubber in Brantford. Changes have been made to the storage of products at the plant, says Fire Chief Shane Caskanette. BRIAN THOMPSON / EXPOSITOR FILE PHOTO
Efforts to reduce the risk of a fire similar to the one that cast a pall of thick black smoke over the city last year are continuing, Brantford Fire Chief Shane Caskanette says.
He said in an interview this week that the fire department is working closely with North West Rubber Ltd., which makes mats from recycled rubber at its plant at 321 Henry St., to review and amend its manufacturing processes.
“Changes include allowing product to cool more prior to stacking and using temperature sensing equipment prior to stacking.”
Caskanette noted his department routinely inspects such manufacturing facilities.
Last June 9, an outdoor storage area containing rubber products caught fire at the plant. Smoke could be seen billowing from the property for hours as firefighters battled the blaze.
Residents and businesses in the area were advised to close windows. Later, nearby businesses were encouraged to close.
Firefighters at the scene said they had trouble extinguishing the fire because of how the rubber products were stacked. An excavator was brought in to separate piles and expose hot spots.
The fire was brought under control by about 3:30 a.m. on June 10.
All businesses reopened on June 10 and Henry Street was reopened with lane restrictions between Middleton Street and Adams Boulevard.
City firefighters were supported by volunteer crews from Brant County and Six Nations.  Foam to help smother the blaze was brought in from Hamilton, Six Nations, Toronto and other areas.
The Ministry of the Environment was notified of the fire for air-quality monitoring. Contaminants found in the plume were below the ministry’s emergency screen values for public exposure. The ministry expected no health impacts to the public from short-term exposure to the smoke, fire officials said in a social media post at the time.
“We believe the fire resulted from a process issue related to the stacking of excessively hot rubber mats,” Caskanette said.
“Based on our investigation, we estimate the damage at over $1 million. However, the owner and their insurer will have a more accurate dollar loss assessment and estimate.”
North West Rubber did not respond to an e-mail or a phone call requesting comment about the damage caused by the fire and the changes implemented by the company to reduce the risk of a future similar incident.
Caskanette said the fire department understands that the company has implemented changes and adopted National Fire Code standards for outdoor storage. The code outlines storage dimensions and separations for rubber commodities.
The company made some minor adjustments to increase outdoor storage aisle widths to meet the national standards, the chief noted.
Exterior outdoor storage of rubber mats is not currently regulated by the Ontario Fire Code. However, a city bylaw restricts storage to 4.5 metres in height and is enforced by the city’s property standards and bylaw enforcement department.
Meanwhile, the Brantford fire department is in the process of making a submission to the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office advocating for outdoor storage requirements for rubber commodities. The department is looking to have the national standards added to the Ontario Fire Code, said Caskanette.
North West Rubber, which had about 40 to 45 workers at the time of the fire, has operated a plant in Brantford for about 10 years.
In addition to Brantford, the company, based in Abbotsford, B.C., has manufacturing facilities in China, Texas, as well as B.C. It derives its raw materials from discarded tires, among other sources.
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