OHS Canada Magazine

Scrapyard that caught fire should not be located in centre of Saint John, says panel

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December 5, 2023
By The Canadian Press

Health & Safety Fire New Brunswick Saint John

(File Photo)

A task force investigating a major scrapyard fire in Saint John, N.B., says the sprawling site on the harbour is at significant risk of a future “catastrophic” blaze.

The finding was in a 38-page report by a panel, made up of representatives from the port authority and the provincial government, who investigated the Sept. 14 fire at the American Iron & Metal plant.

The fire took nearly three days to extinguish and prompted officials to warn residents to stay indoors and close their windows. Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon has described the fire as being the size of three football fields and about three storeys tall at its peak, leaving an acrid smell in the air.

The report released Tuesday by Attorney General Ted Flemming said the central location of the plant, which is close to a residential neighbourhood, is inappropriate given its known hazards.

“The negative socio-economic impacts of the American Iron & Metal operations at its present site are unacceptable to the City of Saint John, its residents, and surrounding communities,” the report concluded in a passage read by Flemming.


He said the city is ill-equipped to manage potential future fires at the site, noting that firefighters did not have enough water when battling the September fire. “And how can a firefighter fight a fire with no water?” Flemming asked.

It took about 83 million litres of water to douse the fire, he said. Of this, about 72 million litres was sea water taken out of the harbour. The remainder was drawn from the city’s water reservoir, which was drained by almost half in the first six hours of the firefighting effort, he said.

The report found that the scrapyard’s operations are an environmental, health and safety risk to Saint John, surrounding communities and their citizens.

The fire released contaminants into the air and the water, and significant additional testing and analysis is required to assess the existence and scope of the environmental and human health impacts, it said.


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