BERNALILLO COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) — The fire that emitted black smoke south of Albuquerque is officially out. Crews are detailing more about what burned and what’s next for the clean-up at the site.
The fire sparked around 2:40 p.m. at Atkore United Poly Systems Warehouse, which is south of Sunport. Officials said wind spread the fire along the south side of the building and melted off side paneling. It also destroyed tools and equipment, like generators.
Investigators have been able to pinpoint the source of the fire, saying it was an employee’s car.
“Right now, they have the origin nailed down right around that vehicle behind us. You can see it was kinda taped off there, so now they are just trying to determine the cause,” said Lt. Jason Fejer with Albuquerque Fire Rescue.
There’s almost nothing left of the vehicle, and for the business, the largest loss was the product that was made and stored at the location. The product is recycled plastic tubing used to bury utility lines, which is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Because of the type of materials that burned, crews are taking extra steps to make sure all hot spots have been put out.
“The nature of plastic as it burns, it melts and kinda conceals smoldering and burning pockets underneath, so with the heavy equipment and our trucks on scene, we were able to fully extinguish everything,” said Lt. Fejer.
Officials are still trying to find out why the car caught on fire or if the fire started outside of the vehicle. They’re hoping to have the answer within a few days.
A health alert was issued Sunday that expired Monday morning. Crews are confident there’s no threat to the public, and the city’s Environmental Health Department agrees, saying the air quality seems to be back to normal.
“We did see some small elevated levels but nothing, nothing that would essentially give us some major concern for the metro area,” Director Angel Martinez Jr said.
While the air quality has improved, the burnt plastic left over carries its own health concerns. The city said it’s planning a site assessment on the property for later this week.