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Smoke could still be seen coming from a smouldering pile of crushed cars at AIM Recycling in Saint John on the morning of Sept. 15, 2023. Image: Brad Perry

UPDATED: AIM Recycling fire extinguished, say port officials

By Brad Perry Sep 15, 2023 | 8:21 PM

A stubborn industrial fire at a Saint John metal recycling facility has been extinguished, officials said Friday evening.

Port Saint John announced the “conclusion” of the fire at American Iron and Metal (AIM) in a social media post.

“We would like to thank everyone for their patience, understanding and feedback during this time,” said the post.

The fire in a pile of crushed cars at AIM Recycling on the city’s west side had been brought under control earlier in the day.

In an interview Friday morning, Platoon Chief Brian Wilson said they were in the “final stages of extinguishment.”

“We’re just going through the last 10 per cent of the pile to finish it off and then these crews will done.”

The massive blaze was reported sometime before 1:45 a.m. Thursday, but officials suspect it had been burning for hours before that.

Large plumes of smoke could be seen coming from the site throughout much of the day Thursday.

“We had quite a number of assets applied to this. Two tugs in the harbour and three aerial apparatus all applying water streams to the pile of metal that was on fire,” said Wilson.

With the conclusion of the fire incident at American Iron and Metal, we would like to thank everyone for their patience,…

Posted by Port Saint John on Friday, September 15, 2023

The platoon chief said they have been working in conjunction with AIM Recycling employees to ensure all of the hotspots are extinguished.

“They have grappling hooks that pick up large chunks of the material. That’s passed in front of the aerial streams of water to be cooled and extinguished and then spread out on the deck,” said Wilson.

“It’s a long process of sorting through the hot pile and making it a cold one.”

Fire officials said Thursday that the fire was burning inside a pile of crushed cars that was 300 metres long by 300 metres wide, and about eight to nine metres tall.

Billowing smoke, which could be smelled from several kilometres away, caused air quality concerns in the city and beyond.

“This fire is an industrial fire so it contains a mixture of chemicals due to the various substances that are burning, so metals, plastics, rubber, foam,” Dr. Rita RaaFat Gad, the acting medical officer of health for the Saint John region, told reporters on Thursday.

“While we can’t really qualify what is being emitted from this fire, we expect that the plume from this fire can be hazardous to your health.”

A voluntary shelter-in-place recommendation was issued for Saint John’s south end and Millidgeville neighbourhoods and later expanded to include the entire city.

Saint John EMO rescinded the order on Friday morning once the fire was largely extinguished. A special air quality statement issued for the city was also cancelled.

In a statement late Thursday, Premier Blaine Higgs said a full investigation will take place, and the company will not be allowed to resume operations until they have more info about what took place.

“I know people are angry and want answers as to how this could happen. I want those answers as well and I am committed to sharing what we find out as soon as we are able,” said Higgs.

AIM must submit a preliminary report within 24 hours of the fire and a follow-up report within five days.

There is still no word on how the fire started.