Fire damages Eielson's recycling center

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Firefighters battle a fire at the recylcing center Jan. 18. The recycling center's pelletizer, a piece of equipment designed to process used paper and convert it into pullets to burn in Eielson's power plant, was the source of the fire.

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Firefighters battle a fire at the recylcing center Jan. 18. The recycling center's pelletizer, a piece of equipment designed to process used paper and convert it into pullets to burn in Eielson's power plant, was the source of the fire.

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- A fire broke out in Eielson's paper and cardboard recycling center Jan. 18, causing the facility to shut down operations.

Firefighters from the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron responded immediately and contained the fire, ensuring it did not pose a threat to surrounding facilities or personnel. No one was injured in the incident.

"Recycling center personnel attempted to extinguish the fire early, but due to the compartmentalized equipment in the facility, it was a very difficult fire to put out," said Lt. Col. Gary Schneider, 354th CES commander. "Luckily, everyone got out and our firefighters were able to contain the fire and ensure no other people or facilities were endangered."

The recycling center's pelletizer, a piece of equipment designed to process used paper into pullets to burn in Eielson's power plant, was the source of the fire.

Although the fire was contained within the facility, it continued to burn through the night within inaccessible compartments of the recycling equipment, as well as within the building's roofing materials.

Firefighters remained outside the facility through the night due to the danger associated with falling debris from the burning roof. However, firefighters were able to continue to fight the fire from the exterior using the building's sprinkler system. "Monitoring the water pressure on the sprinkler system throughout the night greatly reduced the amount of loss to the facility and equipment," Colonel Schneider said.

A preliminary investigation suggests that the fire began when a piece of metal in the pelletizer made it past the magnet area designed to pull metal from the recyclable materials prior to the material going into a large mechanical grinder.

Though the fire did limit Eielson's recycling capabilities, the base recycling program is still operational.

"Our ability to recycle paper and plastic products into fuel pellets was specifically affected," Colonel Schneider said, "but Eielson will continue to recycle glass, aluminum, batteries and metal for our housing residents, as well as fuel, oil and antifreeze for our industrial clients. All Eielson personnel should continue to recycle all materials (including paper and plastic) until the future of the pelletizer is determined."

Eielson's Ground Safety Office continues to investigate the incident.