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Saint John lifts shelter-in-place notice as fire at metal recycling plant brought under control

A shelter-in-place advisory has been lifted for Saint John as firefighters continue to work on an industrial fire on the waterfront that began more than 34 hours ago. 

A pile of scrap metal was still burning at the American Iron and Metal recycling plant, but the fire that sent clouds of hazardous smoke over the New Brunswick port city on Thursday is under control.  

In a statement, the City of Saint John said firefighters will continue to deal with any smouldering hot spots. 

“Public Health still recommends that anyone who can see and smell smoke take any necessary precautions, including wearing a mask,” the city said.

WATCH | Firefighters make progress with AIM fire:

saint john lifts shelter in place notice as fire at metal recycling plant brought under control

Fire at recycling plant under control

2 hours ago

Duration 1:37

Firefighters have been fighting the fire at American Iron and Metal recycling plant since early Thursday morning.

Firefighters started battling the flames at AIM on the west side at 1 a.m.Thursday, and fire Chief Kevin Clifford said they’ve made a lot of progress.

“Things are are getting better,” he told Information Morning Saint John on Friday, “I think we’re going to be on the site for a while longer.”

Premier Blaine Higgs has ordered an investigation into the fire and said AIM operations won’t resume until the government has a better understanding of what happened.

Areal shot of a scrap yard overlooking the harbour, showing fire trucks pouring liquid over charred metal
The American Iron and Metal scrap yard pictured Friday morning. It has been shut down while the province investigates what caused the massive fire. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

AIM leases the scrapyard land from Port Saint John, and the land is federally owned. In a statement, the port said it supports the decision to suspend operations at AIM.

“We’ve heard the frustration, disappointment, and alarm from our community today. What happened is unacceptable,” the port said in a statement.

“We are committed to working with the Province and our key stakeholders to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

The smoke from the fire triggered air quality warnings and a shelter-in-place notice for all Saint John residents. 

Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon said she wants to know what repercussions AIM will face, especially since it’s been the source of complaints from residents and late-night loud explosions for years.

She said the city also has many questions about this fire’s impact on the environment.

“All of this water that they’re using that hosing that whole scene down with — that’s all running and trickling off into the harbour. What are the impacts of that?”

Flames leap out of a large pile of scrap metal, smoke billows
The pile of burning scrap metal, pictured on Thursday afternoon, sent hazardous smoke over the city. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

The large federal government’s air quality index is back at “low risk” for the whole city. 

Clifford said crews are focusing on moving debris and putting out pockets of fire.

“We suspect will be there for at least another day or two,” he said. 

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