Liberty Tire fire investigation complete; fire cause 'undetermin - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Liberty Tire fire investigation complete; fire cause 'undetermined'

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Source: Louisville Metro Arson investigation Source: Louisville Metro Arson investigation
Source: Louisville Metro Arson investigation Source: Louisville Metro Arson investigation
Source: Louisville Metro Arson investigation Source: Louisville Metro Arson investigation

VALLEY STATION, Ky. (WDRB) -- It has been four months since a massive fire broke out at Liberty Tire Recycling in Valley Station and investigators say there's no clear cause.

The investigation is complete and the origin of the fire has been ruled “undetermined”.

A pile of shredded tires and metal somehow caught fire around 10:15 a.m. Monday, Nov. 3.

"You had to destroy the scene to put the fire out," said arson investigator Major Henry Ott.

Flames were 20 feet high and spread so quickly that crews had to re-adjust how they fought it. The investigation lasted more than a month.

"We spent a good several weeks on it," said Major Ott who worked the case with Louisville Metro Arson. His department put together a 124-page report.

It says there were seven large piles on site and the fire started in the largest one with 32,000 square feet of shredded tires. It eventually jumped, burning 10 percent of a nearby pile before spreading to a third.

"Really the only way they were able to extinguish it was to bring in dirt and cap it off to remove the oxygen which then allowed the fire to go out," said Major Ott.

The report says 11 people called 911 days before the fire saying they smelled a strong chemical odor and burning smell. One woman said it was strong enough to burn her eyes.

Liberty Tire had been cited several times in the past for improperly storing tires. The fire on Nov. 3 started just before state inspectors arrived.

Investigators say there are several theories as to what happened.

"There was evidence of smoking," said Major Ott who said cigarette butts were found all over the property.

Investigators also think the fire could have re-kindled from a previous incident on Saturday when a small one broke out on a conveyor belt. They also say the rubber and metal may have simply caught fire on its own. 

Investigators ruled out mechanical failures and found no indications it was set on purpose. Because of so many possibilities, they had to rule it undetermined.

"At this stage the investigation is done, but with the undetermined possibility -- that is -- if someone were to call in and give us additional information. We're going to follow up on that so it's always subject to be reopened,” said Major Ott.

The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection Division of Waste Management made the plant remove some tires because it stored too many and also told the company it has to perform soil samples.

Liberty Tire is required to write up a sampling plan and submit it to the state by March 22.

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