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Recycling plant catches on fire at I-55 and Bayless

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - It took one hundred firefighters to contain a blaze at Republic Services Recycling Plant at I-55 and Bayless Friday.  This is the second fire at the facility in four and a half years.

Bales of waste paper, magazines, newspaper and cardboard burned sending a column of intense black smoke into the air at lunch time.  The fire prompted police to shut down the I-55 northbound exit to Bayless and to block off Bayless for several blocks on either side of the interstate until 4:30pm.

Lemay Fire Chief Neil Svetanics quickly called for four alarms bringing in firefighters from four additional departments in order to get enough water from hydrants several blocks away.

"The fire got real big, fast," Chief Svetanics said explaining it started on the north end of the Republic lot and then spread to products stored under a roof.  "We could see smoke from the engine house;  it was a tremendous column of smoke," he said.

Lemay firefighters knew what they faced.  A larger fire damaged the plant in January of '09.  That one drew six alarms.

"It's always risky when you have that volume of fire and that was our whole idea to bring the companies in to cut it off. Cut it off, contain it and control it," Svetanics explained.   He praised the crews which came from Lemay, St. Louis City, Mehlville, Affton and Crestwood.  "They're really good at their work."

Thirty employees sort and bundle the materials at the plant.  A firm spokesman said no one was injured.  It is not clear yet what caused the fire to break out.  Sparks from  a fork lift that was dragged onpavement caused the fire four and a half years ago.

The blaze kept business at a McDonald's restaurant on Bayless to walk-ins only all afternoon.  So the staff prepared one hundred hamburgers and carried them down the street to the firefighters.

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