A large fire burned through large bales of recycled plastic at Epic Plastics early Wednesday morning near Turner Road and Stockton Street. However, no structures were damaged and no one was injured. The resulting smoke has prompted health concerns from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District.

Engine 2 was dispatched at 3:15 a.m. to what was reported as a small recycled plastic bale fire. The crew soon realized the fire was more serious and called for an additional engine, a ladder truck and a battalion chief. 

With nearby structures threatened, Battalion Chief Brad Doell requested a full structure fire team of four engines and a ladder truck. He also requested that the City of Stockton and Woodbridge Fire help to cover two of Lodi’s stations for emergency calls while they fought the fire with additional engine, ladder truck and battalion chief from Stockton.

It took about an hour to get the blaze under control, however, there were still plastic bales smoldering through the remainder of Wednesday morning.

“When plastic gets hot it burns with an intense ferocity because it’s a petroleum product,” Doell said. “It melts and creates a hard shell so there is smoldering inside the bales.” 

Several charred and melted blocks were scattered throughout the yard.

Crews were waiting for an excavator by 10 a.m. to break apart several inches of melted plastic and better access the areas that were still burning.

Despite how close the fire came to surrounding buildings, firefighters were able to defend them well from the blaze. 

Doell said that the fire department would be speaking more with the business owners about their storage methods for the plastic. This is the second fire at this location in the past year, Doell said.

Much of the problem with this fire was the lack of defensible space between the blocks of flammable plastic material and nearby buildings.

In dealing with this fire, environmental concerns were taken into account due to the effect of burning plastic  on the air and the potential for water runoff and contamination. 

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District was monitoring the air and issued a health cautionary statement for Lodi and San Joaquin County until the fire is extinguished and the smoke has all dispersed. 

Smoke from fires produces fine particulate matter, which can cause serious health problems including lung disease, asthma attacks and increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Sensitive individuals, older adults and children should avoid prolonged exposure and stay indoors during these situations, according to the Air Pollution District.

Public Works also prevented a majority of the water runoff from the fire fight from reaching the river and was monitoring the wastewater.

Firefighters were expected to remain on scene for several hours to help manage the last smoldering areas of the fire. The fire is currently under investigation and no cause has been identified yet. 

Contact reporter Christina Cornejo at christinac@lodinews.com


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