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Battery causes "significant" fire at Recycling Center

Posted at 10:31 AM, Jan 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-16 12:18:54-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A recycled lithium battery is believed to have caused a Friday fire at the Kent County Recycling & Education Center.

According to Kent County Board of Public Works member Phil Skaggs, on Friday the Recycling Center "experienced a significant fire," which started in a drum feeder and was "probably due to a spark caused by a lithium battery."

Kent County Public Works director Darwin Baas told FOX 17 that the fire started at approximately 4:45 p.m. Friday.

He said the flames ignited "in the drum feeder where recyclables are placed by a front end loader. The drum feeder separates material that may be stuck together and places the material uniformly onto the processing line. The fire was most likely caused by a lithium battery that should not have been placed in the recycling. Lithium batteries are reactive and can start a fire if shorted out or inadvertently broken apart by processing equipment. Due to the extensive fire damage we were unable to locate the battery in the fire debris."

Skaggs also cautioned recyclers not to "put any batteries in your recycling."

The Recycling Center is located at 977 Wealthy St. SW in Grand Rapids.

Baas and Skaggs said the Grand Rapids Fire Department arrived at the scene within six minutes and contained the fire while minimizing damage. Skaggs said it appeared the flames had reached the ceiling and the tipping floor was "completely blanketed with smoke."

Baas said Grand Rapids firefighters used more than 9,000 gallons of water to fight the fire.

All staff members evacuated the building safely.

Both Baas and Skaggs said repairs were made, the recycling line was restarted and recyclables are once again being processed.

"The drum feeder sustained significant heat and water damage and will likely require replacement," said Baas.