LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Smoke could be seen for miles as firefighters from across Laurel County battled a major fire Wednesday afternoon at the Laurel County tire recycling facility on Ky. 472.
Laurel County Emergency Management Director Albert Hale called the blaze suspicious, noting that the property has no electricity. There were also no nearby grass fires or lightning strikes that could have ignited the intense blaze.
The fire was reported at approximately 12:49 p.m. and Hale was the first on the scene. He used bolt cutters to remove a lock on a gate, that would have blocked access to the fire, before he began assessing the situation.
According to Hale, around 100 large tires were burning when he arrived on scene.
The tires were stacked six deep and were the large kind of tires mostly used on earth-moving equipment commonly found in mines.
Laurel County Fire Department responded to the scene of the fire and immediately called for back up. East Bernstadt, Bush, Camp Ground, London City and Crossroads volunteer fire departments arrived on scene to provide additional support; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Emergency Response Team was also on scene.
Police blocked traffic along the highway while tankers went back and forth bringing water to the scene and an excavator was used to lift the tires from the stacks while firefighters continued to battle the fire.
“The EPA wanted to shut us down,” said Rodney Gay, chief of the Laurel County Fire Department. “Because the threat of pollution from burning tires was less than spraying debris into the creek, but we got the fire out.”
According to Hale, it took the six responding fire departments more than four hours to extinguish the massive fire. One firefighter, the chief of the Camp Ground Volunteer Fire Department was transported to the hospital due to shortness of breath.