Whatever Happened to Lubbock's Recycling Center Fire?
A Houston tire dump caught fire over the weekend. Investigators believe someone drove a stolen car into the dump and set it on fire. Fire officials say the tires could burn for days. As that junk fire continues to burn, you might be wondering, 'Whatever Happened to Lubbock's Recycling Center Fire?' It's been more than three months since the I-27 recycling center went up in flames. Recently, many of you have asked about the investigation, the cause and the clean-up.
It was definitely a sight to see. Acre after acre of piled wood shingles, asphalt shingles and other junk on fire. The blaze started early in the morning on July 2, 2002 and smoke from the fire threatened to close down I-27 and the Lubbock International Airport.
Today, the piles of charred junk sit untouched. That's because the piles are still smoldering according to the recycling center owner Larry Webb. Webb declined to comment on camera, but says every time they try to go in and work on the piles, they flare up again. Webb says because his insurance company won't cover fire damage to his equipment, he can't clear out the ash until the fire completely burns itself out.
Webb will have to do something soon. Texas lawmakers just passed a new law that enables the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or the TCEQ, to regulate recycling center's like Webb's. That's so sites like this don't become unlicensed dumps. "They have until December 5th, 90 days from September 5th, to give the state a plan on how they will dispose of debris on their lots," says Lubbock State Representative Carl Isett. Isett says the recycling center will then have one year to recycle and haul out 75% of its inventory. Isett co-authored the law because of the aesthetic and environmental impacts places like this could have on our community.
As for the cause of this fire, Lubbock County and the state fire marshal's office say the evidence they've collected is inconclusive. So, it will likely never be determined whether it was arson or accidental. "They took the dogs out that did the sniffing for accelerants and didn't come up with anything there. So, that's at a standstill right now," says Lubbock County Commissioner of Precinct 4 Patti Jones.
The owner Larry Webb was questioned, as were other witnesses. Some speculate the cause was lightning, others say it was intentional. Patti Jones says whatever the case, this issue isn't completely resolved. The county may have other options when it comes to action they can take.