Firefighters spray water on the smoldering remains of the recycling facility at John’s Disposal in the Town of Norway in early July. Damage to the facility is expected to exceed $1 million, but the owner has vowed to rebuild. (Photo by Jason Arndt)

Millions in damages estimated at Norway recycling facility

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

A month after a stubborn blaze destroyed its sorting facility in the Town of Norway in Racine County, officials with John’s Disposal have plans to rebuild, but are still awaiting final damage estimates.

According to John’s Disposal President Brian Jongetjes, whose company has spent the last month cleaning up from the blaze, damages are more than likely going to exceed $1 million.

“We have West Bend Insurance, and that is being worked out, but it is multiple millions of dollars,” he said.

Chief Rob Robins of the Wind Lake Volunteer Fire Department, meanwhile, said at least 2,000,000 gallons of water were needed to battle the blaze at Highway 45 between Six Mile and Seven Mile roads.

Investigators, according to Robins, were able to determine the fire started on a pallet of an unsorted bale of recyclables just west of the sorting facility.

“Officially, it is listed as accidental, undetermined, not to rule out a possible contaminated bale,” Robins said. “The area of origin was an outside bale.”

With the area under an excessive heat warning at the time, when the bale ignited, the fire quickly spread to the sorting facility at around 1 p.m. July 1.

Fire officials were reportedly challenged by the excessive heat, along with little access to nearby water sources, forcing firefighters to take multiple trips out of the area to fill tankers.

As area fire departments battled the blaze, current and former employees of John’s Disposal arrived the scene to remove trucks parked next to the building, Jongetjes states.

“They got there within minutes and moved the trucks away from the building, so we could continue to do our routes, so that helped,” he said. “We were able to continue to do our routes.”

The persisted, burning and smoldering for more than two days, and required assistance from about 200 firefighters from more than 80 different departments in at least nine counties.

Jongetjes commended the assisting departments for their help.

“They had 85 fire departments there and it was an impressive display,” he said. “Some didn’t even know each other and they just dove right in like military and knew exactly what to do.”

To read the full story, see this week’s editions of the Burlington Standard Press, Waterford Post or Westine Report.