Massive Recycling Plant Blaze Put To Rest

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

An impressive black, billowing column of smoke startled residents from Hollywood all the way down to the South Bay.  

At 10:12AM on December 12, 2015, the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to a reported structure fire at 20810 S Denker Av in Harbor Gateway.  While still enroute, firefighters could see the smoke and knew they had a battle coming their way.   With a large recycling plant showing heavy fire, the first arriving officer immediately upgraded the incident to a Greater Alarm.  Once the crews were able to gain access to the yard and get a more accurate view of the breadth and depth of the fire, it was again upgraded to a Major Emergency – the highest level within the LAFD.  This action triggers the dispatch of over 120 additional firefighters.

Units worked to establish heavy stream operations while also staffing handlines to begin the fight.  They faced countless numbers of large and tightly packed bails of plastics and paper combustibles.  To complicate the situation, strong winds caused embers to move throughout the plant, creating hot spots that flared up.  Due to the lay out of the plant and the defensive operation, LAFD Air Ops was also used to conduct water drops carefully coordinate to ensure the safety of all members on the ground.  


The use of foam to increase the water’s effectiveness is critical but given the size of the fire, the supply was quickly depleted.  Commanders knew this would be an extended operation, requiring more foam and fuel to keep the fire engines running.  In addition, they would need water and food for the crews who would be spending hours staffing the lines.  These are just some of the logistical considerations of a large operation.  Given the distance from the department supply warehouse to this incident and the traffic they would face, getting those resources on the road quickly was critical.  

Approximately six hours into the incident, a six-inch water main failed, causing a shut down in water supply to some apparatus.  While DWP worked to conduct the multi-hour repair, an alternate plan for water supply was quickly put in place.  The adaptability and quick thinking of both the engineers operating the pumps and the incident command staff ensured the firefighting efforts continued.

Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas provided his leadership during the height of the battle with over 200 firefighters from the LAFD, LA County Fire Department and Torrance Fire Department.  Deputy Chiefs Phillip Fligiel, Daren Palacios and Daryl Arbuthnott shared Incident Command duties over the next three days.

Due to the size and configuration of the bails, merely applying copious amounts of water would not end the blaze.  

Heavy equipment operators worked tirelessly over the next three days to break up all the bails, which would flare up significantly before crews knocked them down.  It is slow and methodical work but it is the only way to ensure the fire is completely extinguished, thus making it safe for the community. 

LAFD CERT and Support Services Volunteers played a critical role over the three day operation.  We are very grateful for the outstanding work of these dedicated citizens

The incident was formally closed at 6:05PM on 12/15/16.  During the initial response, one firefighter from LACoFD was transported in fair condition with a minor injury.  The cause is under investigation.                                                                                                                 

Dispatched units: E79 RA79 E285 T85 RA85 E38 E36 E264 T64 EM13 BC6 BC13 E85 E36 E49 E248 T48 E266 T66 CM22 EM1 BC1 T5 E205 E5 UR5 RA5 HR56 UR88 BC4 FT17 CM41 E17 E17 HU59 E100 FT100 SU2 E64 E94 T33 E221 T21 AR1 BC2 BC11 EA1 E212 T12 E57 E65 E66 E101 E295 T95 E215 T15 E210 T10 E48 PH1 H0F H0B T90 E290 H1 H2 E90 E21 EM35 T90 E290 HT1 H6 E35 T20 E220 T20 E220 AR23 H2 JT1 JT3 TP1 TP2 TP3 LD1 LD2 DT1 DT2 DZ11 HE1 E63 T29 E229 RT40 T88 E288 E93 E89 T87 E287 RA848 BC18 BC10 RA17 E11 E60 E15 EM13 T35 E235 E95 E37 E12 T39 E239 E98 RA21 T39 E239 T89 E289 E87 T105 E305 E88 RA12 BC6 E112 T85 E285 E48 T15 E215 E94 T21 E221 E10 E35 T37 E237 T64 E264 T26 E226 E79 E36 T5 E205 T2 E202 T3 E203 T61 E261 T48 E248 T33 E233 E85 E15 BC6 E40 E21 T10 E210 E26 T11 E211 E95 E37 E79 E85 BC6 

Photo Credits From Top:

Chris Conkle

Greg Doyle

Harry Garvin

Harry Garvin

Mike Meadows

Chris Conkle

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