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Blaze destroys former cable recycling plant in Schuylkill

  • ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Flames and smoke rise from the former American Cable Recycling facility yesterday in Delano.
    ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Flames and smoke rise from the former American Cable Recycling facility yesterday in Delano.
Published July 26. 2013 05:03PM

A former cable recycling facility in Delano was destroyed yesterday during a fast-moving blaze. Volunteers from over two dozen fire companies responded.

The inferno left a rising 300-foot smoke cloud visible over 10 miles away.

Firefighters and police were called to the former American Cable Recycling facility, 599 Lofty Road, just after 1 p.m. for a report of a possible commercial structure fire. When they arrived, they noticed smoke and flames billowing out from the sides of the sprawling structure.

The incident quickly escalated as the fire spread to piles of cables, pallets and loose debris staged both inside and outside the property.

Kline Township Police Chief John Petrilla, who was one of the first responders on scene, pointed out that the unoccupied facility hadn't been used for several years.

Schuylkill Parcel Locator lists the facility owner as Robert Bonaccolta, of Lebanon, Pa., who purchased the property from American Cable Recyclers Inc. in August 2010. It adds that the structure was built in 1970. The facility once housed Agmet Corp., which is listed as a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Due to facility's location, the area was void of fire hydrants. Knowing this, Delano Fire Chief and Incident Commander Paul Kuropatsky called for a tanker task force; which included volunteer firefighters and tanker trucks from Schuylkill, Carbon and Luzerne counties.

Kuropatsky said that he was quick to confirm from separate sources that no hazardous materials were inside the facility before allowing firefighters to battle the fire.

"The flames were blowing out of the back of the building and the roof," said Kuropatsky. "It was pretty brutal."

Firefighters on scene stated that the smoke could be seen in Hazleton and as far away as West Penn Township.

Delano firefighter James Shaup, who lives about a half-mile away from the building, was one of the first people on scene and help cut a lock to the property to permit firefighters entry to the side of the property.

"Flames at the back of the building were curling six foot in the air when I arrived," said Shaup. "Before you knew it, the blowing fire cloud rose higher and higher."

Volunteer firefighters and tanker trucks from over 25 fire companies, which included three aerial trucks, spent over seven hours battling the stubborn fire.

Firefighters worked hard to prevent the flames from spreading to massive quantities of loose cables and debris that lay scattered in and around the property. Seven portable dam bladders were set up on both sides of the building with two fill sites located at the Delano Fire Company and near Air Products.

PennDOT opened a closed bridge on Lofty Road so firefighters could gain quicker access to the fire. Mahanoy City Fire Chief Randy Kalce served as operations chief during the incident.

Responding were firefighters and tanker trucks from Barnesville, Delano, Foster Township, Freeland, Harwood, Hazle Township, Hometown, Quakake, Mahanoy City, McAdoo, New England/Walker Township and New Ringgold.

Also responding were Nuremburg/Weston, Pine Grove, Ryan Township, Shenandoah, Sheppton-Oneida, St. Clair, Sugarloaf, Tamaqua, Tresckow, Valley Regional, Weatherly, West Hazleton, West Penn and others.

Schuylkill Haven Fire Company provided air monitoring. Ryan Township EMS Rehabilitation Unit staged at the scene and served soup and cold refreshments for the duration.

Community members stepped up to provide food and refreshments to firefighters battling the blaze. Hometown McDonalds donated over 100 hamburgers. Both DiMaggios and Dominos in Tamaqua donated pizzas. The Tamaqua Volunteers group donated crates of cold Guers tea.

Also responding were Ryan Township Police, Kline Township Police, McAdoo Ambulance, Hazleton APTS, Ryan Township Ambulance, Delano Fire Police and Hometown Fire Police. In addition, Delano, Kline Township and Rush Township borough workers assisted firefighters. Firefighters were eventually cleared around 8:30 p.m.

Kuropatsky said the facility didn't have electricity and the cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

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