How the biggest blaze in Phoenix Fire Department history led to changes

By Christina Estes
Published: Friday, November 3, 2023 - 8:50am
Updated: Saturday, November 4, 2023 - 7:54am

Library Iron and Metal Recycling yard fire Phoenix
Phoenix Fire Department
Firefighters battle a two-alarm blaze at Library Iron and Metal Recycling in Phoenix on Thursday, June 10, 2021.

The Phoenix Fire Department said the number of outdoor combustible storage fires has decreased 50% in the past year. The department credits a program they launched two years ago, after the largest fire in the department’s history.

In June 2021, a fire at a recycling business near 35th Avenue and Lincoln Street quickly spread to another recycling center, a tire shop and other structures. 

“It elicited over 200 fire personnel, ten automatic aid partners, we operated for 96 consecutive hours, [used] hundreds of thousands of gallons of water,” Deputy Fire Chief Brian Standage told a city council subcommittee. “And while no injuries to community members were reported, we did have two firefighters injured.”

That fire sparked the department's outdoor combustible storage program and the council approved more inspectors. They visit pallet yards, recycling centers, tire storage and outdoor lumber yards to enforce codes and ensure access for emergency response.

Smoke from a fire can be seen on Seventh Avenue
Jean Clare Sarmiento/KJZZ
Smoke from a fire can be seen on Seventh Avenue facing south from downtown Phoenix in October 2023.

“Cars and forklifts will catch fire, accidents and mishaps will happen, despite regulations. The goal must be to keep these fires from escalating, keeping the impacts to the community, the businesses and the environment small,” Standage said.

Since the program began, the department says it’s inspected all 339 known outdoor combustible storage facilities, including the site of last Saturday’s recycling fire, near Seventh Avenue and Magnolia Street.

“Our program recently identified this property, but unfortunately our initial engagement occurred less than a week prior to the fire and did not afford our staff sufficient time to impact necessary changes,” Standage said.

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