HEBRON – Tuesday morning, large piles of insulation continued to smolder next to a warehouse on Arrowhead Drive, just east of the Buckeye Outdoors building.
The fire began within the warehouse Jan. 29. No one was injured and there was no significant structural damage to the warehouse, but rolls of smoky insulation were pushed outside and allowed to burn themselves out.
“It’s like trying to shovel cotton,” said Hebron Fire Chief Randy Weekly. He said no one is sure yet how the fire started and it remains under investigation. Merely a theory, Weekly said sometimes insulation contains a “hot slug,” or a particularly dense pocket that wasn’t manufactured correctly. It tends to remain hot after production. These “slugs” can cause the rest of the roll, and eventually the rolls around it, to ignite. “It’s really more of a smolder than a burn,” said Weekly. The insulation is so dense that it won’t erupt into a huge flame, said the chief, it’ll just smolder for days. Insulation also has paper backing, which is also flammable, he said.
Weekly said an automatic alarm reported the fire, which was just large enough to activate some of the warehouse’s sprinklers. He doesn’t believe the smoke presents a health risk and the insulation is slowly being hauled away to a landfill, he believes.
According to a Hebron Fire Department run sheet, the Newark, Heath, Buckeye Lake, Granville Township, and Heath fire departments were called to the scene, as were the Licking Township Fire Company and the West Licking Joint Fire District.
Owens Corning public relations representative Jason Saragian confirmed there are no heath concerns unique to fiberglass. As with any fire, he said, there are products of combustion that may be health hazards, such as carbon monoxide. “But there is nothing specific to insulation,” said Saragian.
He said it’s unlikely the insulation could be recycled. The integrity of the insulation was compromised from a recycling standpoint because of its packaging, different components, and likelihood that it was wet as a result of putting out the fire. However, Saragian said much of insulation’s recycling is on the front-end. The insulation itself provides thermal efficiency for years to come, returning 12 times the energy it takes to make it within the first year, and then it’s compounded after that, he said.