Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cause of fire at Rockville paper recycling plant under investigation

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Fire officials are still investigating the cause of a blaze that broke out at a paper recycling plant in Rockville last week.

More than 80 county firefighters responded to the two-alarm fire at Georgetown Paper Stock Company in the 1200 block of East Gude Drive around 9:30 p.m. March 25, Pete Piringer, a spokesman for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, said.

Officials at the company could not be reached for comment by Gazette press time Tuesday afternoon.

When firefighters arrived, they saw a ‘‘pretty large pile of paper and cardboard bundles on fire” in an outside work area, Piringer said. The fire, which was fanned by the wind, spread quickly.

Front-end loaders, bulldozers, foam and other equipment were brought in to help pull apart the bales to fully extinguish the flames.

The wind also carried embers onto neighboring properties, causing a few small fires in trash bins, Piringer said. Those fires were contained quickly.

Firefighters were on the scene into the early-morning hours fighting the fire, he said. No injuries were reported.

East Gude Drive was closed for two hours between Southlawn Lane and Dover Road.

Fire investigators believe the fire was caused by discarded smoking materials, ‘‘but that’s inconclusive,” Piringer said Monday.

He said it is difficult to estimate the damage because he did not know the value of the paper and cardboard lost in the fire, but a paper compactor machine was destroyed, causing at least $80,000 in damage.