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North Adams Scrapyard Fire Is Out; Ruled As Accident
By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
08:04AM / Wednesday, May 26, 2021
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It was all hands on deck Tuesday with multiple fire departments responding to the blaze. As of Wednesday morning things have calmed down.

Mayor Thomas Bernard and Fire Chief Brent Lefebvre held a press briefing Wednesday Morning.

Update: The fire was declared out at 10 a.m. on Wednesday almost exactly 24 hours after it was reported Tuesday. 

It took dozens of firefighters from as far away as Orange and Northampton to aid in bringing the massive blaze under control. By noon, all units had been released and North Adams firefighters were cleaning up tools and equipment. 

"As of 10 o'clock this morning, we concluded firefighting operations. All known hotspots have been extinguished. We've turned the property back over to the owners, Apkin," said Fire Chief Brent Lefebvre. "Now we're conducting cleanup operations hitting all of our equipment placed back into service and decon from all the dirt and mud and the contamination that were on scene."

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Firefighters hope to vacate George Apkin & Sons scrapyard Wednesday afternoon as operations wind down.

North Adams Fire Chief Brent Lefebvre and Mayor Thomas Bernard provided an update early Wednesday morning in the Sons of Italy parking lot, and Bernard said although the firefight is ongoing, firefighters have entered into a new operational period and hope to have the fire completely managed by this afternoon.
"This is an ongoing firefighting operation, and the fire is largely contained," Bernard said. "Firefighters are continuing to identify hotspots with the help of machine operators at Apkin's who are breaking up the piles."
Dozens of firefighters spent Tuesday battling a raging fire that broke out in the scrapyard when a spark ignited gasoline still in a vehicle being cut up for scrap.
Black smoke could be seen throughout the downtown as fires burned in the 100-foot long pile of automotive debris.
Bernard reiterated that overnight air quality monitoring showed that the air still poses no health risk.
"I think the most important thing is that, overnight, air quality monitoring continues to show that there are no significant issues," he said. "In fact, there are no significant issues whatsoever with air quality."
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the state Department of Environmental Protection's air quality monitoring team and state Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Division responded Tuesday to test the toxicity of the fumes from the junkyard fire. Air monitors were set up at various points throughout the city.
Tuesday, residents and businesses were asked to close their windows, close HVAC systems, shut off air conditioners, and stay indoors while the air quality was initially tested.
Lefebvre said the fire is waning and firefighters will continue to use thermal imaging to locate hotspots within the scrap.
"We use a thermal imager to monitor the pile that is on fire," he said. "Once they reveal that the temperatures are safe and they will not rekindle, that is when we make that determination."
He said once firefighters completely eliminate these small fires they can shut the operation down.
"Once those fires have been eliminated it should just be clean up and mop up," he said. "We should be out of here around this afternoon i expect."
Lefebvre said the State Fire Marshall has concluded their investigation, and the incident has been ruled as an industrial accident.
"It is pretty cut and dry," he said. "From here we just have to clean up and talk to the owner about how we can prevent this from happening again."
Lefebvre said he did not have another briefing scheduled. He said he may hold one the operation has concluded.
The city received support from local fire companies including Adams, Adams Fire Wardens, Clarksburg, Florida, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, Lee, Otis, Peru, Richmond, Sheffield, Stamford, Vt., Williamstown and Windsor. Arriving late Tuesday were Amherst, Orange, South Hadley and Westhampton.
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