DELTA — Firefighters from around northwest Ohio continued to douse a huge fire at a recycling facility here Tuesday, that was eventually brought under control.
The fire broke out around 6 p.m. Monday in a scrap yard at MetalX, 7300 Ohio 109, Delta, and blazed out of control by later in the evening. A stack of cars appeared to be the center of the fire, according to at least one witness and news reports.
Parts of U.S. 20, Ohio 109 and County Road H were closed while firefighters fought the blaze. U.S. 20 reopened late Tuesday afternoon, according to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office.
The fire commanded the attention of so many Fulton County first responders that a statewide emergency plan was activated, thus allowing resources to be drawn from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, this involved personnel from all six Defiance-area counties (Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Paulding, Putnam and Williams) as firefighters continued their work and are likely needed in coming days.
In Defiance County, firefighters and tankers from Delaware Township, Highland Township and Jewell were called in Monday evening. Hicksville, Noble Township, Sherwood and South Richland Township also helped out later as equipment and personnel were rotated in and out of the scene.
According to Highland Township Capt. Brian Berry, he and three others in his department — Chief Brent Davis, Lt. Jeremy Smith and Capt. Matt Hanenkrath (Defiance County’s 911 director) — were dispatched to the scene at 8 p.m. Monday. They brought a 2,500-gallon tanker and command vehicle.
Initially, Highland Township firefighters were assigned to the Delta Fire Department to fill in for personnel who were at the fire scene. They were responsible for covering several Fulton County Townships and western Lucas County.
Berry was among those who was summoned to the fire scene later during the night. Upon arrival he estimated that flames were shooting 70 feet into the air.
“Once we got to the scene you could feel the heat from State Route 109 as you were driving by,” explained Berry, noting that this was, perhaps, a “couple hundred of yards away.”
“It’s one of those fires that a rural fire department may only see once in a lifetime,” he said.
Ladder trucks from throughout northwest Ohio were used to pour water down onto the flames. Some of these were capable of heights of more than 75 or 100 feet, he noted.
To get water there, tankers made shuttle runs — with the Delta reservoir the initial source — but at least initially this caused waiting lines, according to Berry. In all, Highland Township transported some 30,000 gallons of water alone, he said.
Although by mid-afternoon Tuesday the worst seemed to have passed, Berry noted that emergency officials were still “asking for different departments to show up and support the scene because they still need water” and are “still expecting to throw a lot of water on it.”
Berry said he left the scene about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Because Hanenkrath headed back to Defiance County earlier — around 3:15 a.m., he said — he was not summoned to the fire scene, remaining at the Delta Fire Department the entire time.
One of his duties was helping unload the large amounts of bottled water that were randomly donated by the public and others. This included a pallet of water on a pickup, he indicated.
“We did a lot of offloading of bottled water,” said Hanenkrath. “It was amazing, the cases and pallets of bottled water people dropped off. There were trucks that would pull up and say, ‘hey we got water for you.’”
As for carrying out the emergency response plan, Hanenkrath said, “we practice and drill for this stuff. To see the incident command in place — it worked flawlessly in my opinion — and to see the cooperation ... .”
At the Delta Fire Department, he said Highland Township worked with Springfield Township-Stryker Fire department for the first time, but “there was not that uncomfortableness. We were all here to do one job, and it was pretty awesome.”
As for the fire, Hanenkrath knew on the way it was going to be a big one.
“When we got to Liberty Center (nine miles south of Delta) you could see it was one heck of a fire,” he said.
According to information provided by Delta Fire Chief Scott Smith, some 165 personnel and 30 fire departments responded to the incident. Those numbers were about half around noon on Tuesday.