Fire at Chester aluminum plant now under control

Aleris Rolled Products aluminum recycling plant in Chester, Va
Aleris Rolled Products aluminum recycling plant in Chester, Va

CHESTER, VA (WWBT) - Repairs from one fire may have led to another at a Chesterfield plant. For the second time in little over a week, fire crews spent hours at the Aleris Aluminum Recycling Plant just south of Willis road near I-95.

Nearly 30 people inside got out safely Friday morning.  A worker called in the fire just before 9:30. A fire in the production tower prompted an early release for workers.

Aluminum is usually made here but not Friday. Crews were welding metal and making repairs to damage from last week's fire. Embers landed on ductwork nearby causing a fire inside the furnace walls. You can't see the flames from the outside. the only thing crews could do was wait for the fire to subside. It finally did around lunchtime.

"We just want to let everybody know that there's no danger right now to anyone in the immediate area," said Chesterfield Fire and EMS Lieutenant Jason Elmore.

Lt. Elmore says crews put salt on the roof surrounding the bottom level of the tower to prevent any falling embers from igniting.

"So that's where our concern is," said Lt. Elmore. "The fire that is in the tower could have some embers or drop from the tower onto the roof to spread the fire. That's what we're trying to eliminate."

Elmore says the company has always been up to safety code. A spokesperson with Aleris sent a message reading: "Aleris takes safety seriously. Our Richmond plant is committed to operating safely and has operated very safely over the history of the facility unfortunately, as we were conducting repairs to a unit that was shutdown, the work underway ignited materials in a ventilation duct work. We are investigating the matter to determine how to prevent the recurrence of this type of event.

Aleris, which has been in this facility since 2005, says it's taking measures to prevent this from happening again. Fire crews say hazardous material from last weeks fire - including aluminum dust and other byproducts had been removed prior to Friday's fire.

The Chester facility produces aluminum sheets from recycled material which is turned into products like gutters, downspouts and aluminum siding according to American Metal Market.

A spokesperson with Aleris says this particular tower should be back up and running within two to three weeks.

A similar fire was sparked at the plant on April 24. In that case, chemicals and high heat caused structural instability of the beams inside. Crews were forced to let the fire burn out on its own out of concern of a possible explosion or collapse.

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