PILOT MOUNTAIN — Officials are still without leads in a tire recycling facility fire which burned for more than a week earlier this year.
The fire at the New River Tire Recycling warehouse was ruled an arson in January.
The blaze began around 1 a.m. on Jan. 12 at the facility located on Old Highway 52 in Pilot Mountain.
“We don’t have an arson with really strong suspect development right off the bat,” said Shannon O’Toole, spokesperson for the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), adding that the Bureau is soliciting information from the community.
“We have no good suspect information right now,” remarked O’Toole. “We are still conducting our investigation.”
Though the investigation into the arson at the recycling facility may be somewhat stalled, the clean-up efforts at the facility are ongoing.
Pilot Mountain Interim Town Manager Michael Boaz said New River employees have been on site removing waste which burned in the lengthy blaze. However, he said clean-up efforts should be the extent of the work taking place at the facility.
“I know they’ve been ordered not to operate, with the exception of clean-up,” explained Boaz, adding the order came from the county’s inspections department.
Inspections chief Brandon Hawks could not be reached to provide an update.
Boaz said the clean-up efforts at the site will involve many entities. The town, county, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality have been and will continue to be involved in the efforts. However, eventually costs associated with the clean-up will rest on the shoulders of the tire recycling facility.
The EPA assumes many costs initially, according to Boaz. However, eventually the business must pay back the funds.
Boaz was unsure how local entities such as volunteer fire departments and county assets would recoup any monies spent as a result of the fire.
The New River Tire fire and clean-up effort is set for discussion on the agenda of the Surry County Board of Commissioners at its annual retreat on Feb. 26.
Boaz said he’s not sure what the outcome of a very long clean-up process will be. However, he is certain of the town’s intentions.
“We are committed to ensuring New River Tire operates in compliance with (applicable) laws and regulations,” explained Boaz. “We will also ensure their operations are not detrimental to the health and safety of the public.”
The interim town manager also said the town continues to monitor water quality at its water treatment plant, which he said has been unaffected by the fire.
Boaz went on to say he is unsure as to whether the facility will operate again. The facility was issued a change of use permit in 2013, prior to an amendment to the town’s zoning ordinance. Under the new law, a recycling facility such as New River Tire would have to apply for a conditional use permit.
Boaz said the company was grandfathered into the new zoning requirements. However, a cessation of operations could lead to the facility being required to apply for a conditional use permit.
As long as the facility applies for a permit to make necessary repairs within 90 days of the fire it will retain its “grandfathered” status, according to Boaz. The business has six months to begin construction operations associated with the repairs.
To provide information regarding the arson ivestigation, community members may call the SBI Northwestern district office in Hickory at 828-294-2226.
Diane may be reached at 368-2222 or on twitter @PilotReporter, and Andy can be reached at 415-4698.