A large fire burned around an acre of pallets on July 10 at a pallet yard on Warder Street in Springfield. STAFF

Officials: Springfield pallet yard had multiple violations at time of fire

There were multiple code violations at a pallet yard where a massive fire erupted a week ago and the businesses operating at the site is facing potential fines, officials from the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division said Thursday.

Springfield Asst. Fire Chief Matthew Smith said as his department continues to investigate the matter, but improperly stacked pallets made it difficult for fire crews to battle the flames.

The fire is estimated to have burned thousands of pallets, causing firefighters to navigate approximately an acre of burned wood. Around 10 percent of the yard’s estimated 78,000 pallets were destroyed in the blaze, according to a fire report released by the SFRD.

“There will certainly be violations. Whether we go to the citation phase, which is when we start fining people, has not been determined yet,” Smith said.

Smith said his department, which oversees the enforcement of fire codes in the city, is currently having conversations with three businesses that either own or use the pallet yard. He added that all three will be held accountable for any violations found at the property on 1200 Warder St.

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Those violations include not properly securing the property with a sufficient fence, meaning anyone could walk onto the yard at any time. The pallets were also stacked in a way that did not provide access points for fire crews to properly attack the fire, Smith said.

“We couldn’t get into the pallet yard in order to stretch lines, which would have made it much easier to do it that way,” he said, noting firefighters had to climb over piles of pallets in order to finish off the fire.

He said code violations at pallet and tire yards across the city do happen and added that though those type of businesses are initially in compliance with the city’s fire codes — such as stacking its contents a certain way — violations tend creep up over time.

In the case of last week’s pallet yard fire, the company which owns the land, A & P Investments, will be responsible to make sure everything is up to code, alongside Tri State Wood Products, which leases the land, and S & D Pallets, which stores its contents at the yard, Smith said.

A&P Investments and Tri State Wood Products could not be reached for comment for this article. Representatives of S&D Pallets did not return calls seeking comment.

However, Smith said before any fines are assessed, his department wants to give those businesses an opportunity to present a plan on how to clean up the yard.

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“I don’t want to drop the hammer on anybody,” he said. “I want a good productive business. But there are certain rules for safety reasons they have to follow. If they do those, I want them to be operational.”

Smith previously told the News-Sun that the massive fire reported on July 10 forced firefighters to take a defensive approach in attacking the blaze. It involved around 27 firefighters who used methods such as shooting elevated streams of water to extinguish the flames, according to the official fire report.

The fire was reported around 7:35 p.m. and took fire crews more than an hour to confine it, Smith said. Flames also damaged five junk school buses that had formed a barrier on a nearby property, according to Springfield Fire.

Smith told the News-Sun that the cause of the fire has not been determined due to firefighters having difficulty in tracing the fire’s burn pattern. He said his department is not ruling out arson as a possible cause of the blaze.

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