AN electrical fault is believed to be the cause of the fire that destroyed the JR Richards Recycling Plant at Tip Road Tuncurry on Friday night after police released the site into the hands of the insurance company yesterday morning.
Both police and fire and rescue personnel responded to the fire at approximately 9.15pm after a passing motorist alerted emergency services to the blaze. It took nearly eight hours to contain the fire, with containment efforts hampered by the nature of waste contained in the facility and a poor onsite water supply.
“Though the fire was well contained inside the building, it took a long time to control given the nature of waste inside; recyclable materials, cardboard, plastic, paper and those sorts of things,” Captain of Forster Fire and Rescue, Paul Langley said.
“We actually had to remove the rubbish that was on fire and extinguished it outside which took some time. Also, the water main at the site had burst, it was compromised, so we had to relay-pump water from Black Head to the site of the fire which contributed to the time it took to contain it,” Mr Langley said.
Early estimates of the damage bill have run into the vicinity of $15 million, but Associate Director of JR Richards Rob Marlow says the figure is closer to $5 million.
“We built it so we know,” Mr Marlow said.
“The police originally put it at $15 million, the fire brigade at the time said maybe ten (million) but, based on our own estimates and early discussions with our insurance company five (million) is the figure we’re working with.”
It is believed that en electrical fault in one of the machines at the facility caused the fire and Mr Marlow said that he is satisfied with that explanation.
“Nothing is confirmed yet, but the site has been released and is now in the hands of our insurance company.”
The facility services the Great Lakes, Greater Taree and Gloucester Shire areas and Mr Marlow assured residents that it will be “business as usual” as far as residents are concerned.
“We encourage all residents to continue to recycle and collections will continue as normal. Obviously we can no longer process the material there (Tuncurry) but we have already diverted some to the Hastings (Hastings Council have been very helpful there) and we have a whole range of transport options to divert the material to other sites. We’re making every effort to ensure residents are not affected.”