Investigation ongoing after fire at Omnisource scrap yard

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 6:52 PM EDT
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NEW CARLISLE, Ind. (WNDU) - The investigation into the cause of Tuesday’s huge scrap yard fire in New Carlisle is ongoing.

While the official cause is not known, there seems to be a general theory of how things played out.

The Omnisource facility purchases all grades of scrap metal—including crushed cars.

“There’s still residual amounts of fuel, hydraulic fluids, brake fluids, and cars, you know, from the late seventies to the early eighties started replacing steel parts with plastic parts,” said St. Josephs County Emergency Management Director John Antonucci. “You know, the potential is there for something to happen. A spark from an electrical component on a piece of equipment, a spark by dragging something across the concrete.”

Thick black smoke could be seen for miles away although perhaps the closer the vantage point, the more likely one was to see red.

“It did make me very angry,” said nearby resident Carol Peterson. “And my message is that we really want to get this place out of here.”

“It’s just frustrating this continues to happen,” said resident Mary Countryman. “We, the group of us that were fighting against this, said it was going to happen, and it does happen, it continues to happen and there’s just, nothing changes.”

In 2011, the property was rezoned to allow for a metal recycling operation--over the objections of neighbors.

The facility has now produced a fire so big it took more than one million gallons of water to put it out.

“And although they say there’s a liner to protect the groundwater, how full was that liner when, sure, I would guess that water was overflowing where the liner area is covering,” said Countryman. “I’m concerned about groundwater contamination.”

The fire did push the town’s ability to supply water to the limits. Antonucci says Omnisource is already talking about ways to be a better neighbor.

“We talked about a fire protection well on site to feed those hydrants that are onsite so that they can control the volume and the pressure on site. We don’t have to worry about shunting water from another facility to be able to continue to maintain a flow to the fire.”

The company that built the facility has since gone bankrupt. The present operator is Omnisource which issue the following written statement:

“There was a fire at our OmniSource New Carlisle, Indiana location on August 24, 2021.  We are grateful that there were no injuries from this incident and are thankful to the numerous fire departments for their quick response.  An investigation is underway, and we will work closely with the appropriate authorities throughout this process.  No further details regarding the incident are available at this time.”

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