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Owner vows to stay in business after fire destroys recycling facility

By Sam Penrod | Posted - Feb. 1, 2012 at 10:03 p.m.


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DEWEYVILLE, Box Elder County -- A structure fire consumed a plastics recycling facility in Box Elder County Wednesday.

At approximately 1 p.m., welders at Hillside Recycling at 12090 N. state Route 38 sparked a fire on a wood pile. The fire spread and then burned through the entire building, which was approximately 175 by 180 feet.

There were no injuries reported, but the building is a total loss.

"Five years down the drain here," said Blaine Rupp, owner of Hillside Recycling. "We've been building. It's real bad, actually. Bad, bad."

Rupp said he started the company in 2006, taking paper, plastics and cardboard from several large manufacturers in northern Utah and compacting it, then selling it to recyclers in California.

Business was getting better, so Rupp was expanding his building. A welder sparked the fire, which investigators call accidental.

"They were adding onto the structure, and they were doing some welding and cutting, and some sparks fell down into some plastic pallets and ignited the pallets," said Tremonton Fire Chief Steve Batis. "They tried to extinguish it with fire extinguishers."

When fire crews arrived, the building was fully engulfed. And with no fire hydrants, engines had to truck in load after load of water.

Bystanders could feel the flames.

"You could feel the heat from about 100 yards away. It was a pretty intense fire," said Nick Whelan.

"They had propane tanks inside on forklifts that (were) exploding," Todd Johnsen said. "It basically got so hot that the tin sides melted and collapsed in on itself."

People in town are saddened to see their neighbors suffer such a loss.

"There isn't a better family around. The Rupps are the best there is," said Darwin Bingham.

Blaine Rupp is now scrambling to find a temporary location to keep his business going so his employees will have a job.

"We're going to try to find another building to rent so we can keep our customers happy and keep our accounts," Rupp said. "(We've) got to try to keep going. That's all we can do."

Officials with the Box Elder County Sheriff's Office say they don't have an official estimate at the cost but are placing it at around $1 million.

Box Elder County public safety dispatchers said the fire continues to burn at the plant and crews will remain on the scene through the night as a precaution.

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Written with contributions from Paul Nelson.

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Sam Penrod

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