Flames rip through stacks of cardboard at recycling center

SAN DIEGO — Fire investigators are working Wednesday to determine what sparked a blaze that ripped through stacks of cardboard at a Kearny Mesa recycling center, authorities said.

Nobody was injured and no buildings were damaged, but more than 60 San Diego Fire-Rescue Department firefighters were summoned to help battle the blaze as it tore through a 500-by-500-foot stack of cardboard Tuesday night, said Steve Ricci, an SDFRD deputy chief of operations.

The fire was reported just before 7 p.m. at RMG Recycling, 4686 Mercury St., Ricci said. It closed down the industrial roadway between Vickers Street and Engineers Road for several hours as crews remained on scene past midnight.

“The first unit at the scene shortly after 7 found heavy smoke issuing from a large area of cardboard, about 500-by-500-feet,” Ricci told reporters Tuesday night. “The unit immediately started to make an attack on the fire, but was unable to make access to large portions of the cardboard because it was such a large area.”

The first fire crews called for a second alarm, which doubled the resources that were committed to the blaze, Ricci said.

To put out the “deep-seated” flames in the center of the sea of cardboard, fire crews called on a bulldozer, a back hoe and a foam truck, Ricci said. The bulldozer and backhoe were expected to help spread the cardboard out, where the foam truck would apply its retardant.

“The foam will coat the material and put out the fire a lot faster than water will,” Ricci said Tuesday as he awaited those resources.

The deputy chief said he didn’t believe any other material or chemicals caught on fire, and said the smoke from burning cardboard, which was heavy in the area Tuesday night, was “nothing more dangerous than a fire pit at the beach, or something like that.”

Several business around the recycling center were evacuated as a precaution, but no damage was reported.