Jamaica Ash & Rubble Removal Fire in Westbury Raises Questions About Air Quality Safety

By: Lola Rivera
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Jamaica Ash & Rubble Removal Fire in Westbury Raises Questions About Air Quality Safety

On Wed. May 5, a six-alarm fire broke out around 8:48 p.m. on Covert Lane in Westbury. 

The day-long blaze took place at Jamaica Ash & Rubble Removal, a waste and environmental management site. Located in a 55,000-square foot building, Jamaica Ash is home to one of New York’s largest solid waste and recycling companies. The waste-handling facility transports and hosts many different forms of waste including plastics, metals, batteries and even fluorescent lights. 

During a press conference, Assistant Fire Chief Michael Uttaro and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran explain that the Jamaica Ash & Rubbish Removal fire took place in an industrial area. However, Jamaica Ash & Rubbish Removal is located near a residential area as well as a school. 

Long Island fire departments from both Nassau and Suffolk Counties were present at the scene of the fire. Over 68 different departments took part in fighting the large flames. 

The fire lasted over 12 hours but was said to be contained by 7:30 a.m. the next morning. 

 📸: Howard Schnapp/Newsday

The overnight fire caused a halt of the Long Island Railroad service, due to a shutdown of the tracks that were located adjacent to Jamaica Ash. Service was suspended out of precaution for any possible debris that could’ve fallen on the railroad tracks. Suspended service caused delays on the Huntington/Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma lines.   

Fire operations took place on the south end of the property, located right near the railroad tracks. Firefighters used six tower ladders, over the train tracks, to fight the flames. 

Jamaica Ash & Rubble Removal Fire in Westbury Raises Questions About Air Quality Safety
Jamaica Ash & Rubble Removal Facility 📸: ABC 7 News

Electrical transmissions were turned off once flames rose 40 to 50 feet. 

According to Assistant Fire Chief Michael Uttaro in a press conference, hazardous materials teams were on the site at the time of the fire. They claim the teams did continuous air monitoring throughout the duration of the fire. The air was deemed safe and free from toxins. 

“Burning garbage contains many contaminants and toxins that can contribute to future health issues, how is it that they are telling us that the air quality at the time was free from toxins?” said Luis Mendez, a local activist and Executive Director of Empowering Young Professionals.

While Nassau County and the Westbury Fire Department claim that there have been no identified air-quality issues, many are worried due to the amount of garbage that was burnt for the length of time it was. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, burning trash can cause pollution and lead to many health risks. 

“It is worrisome that something like this can occur so close to a residential area and it to be brushed off as safe,” said a local Westbury woman who felt uncomfortable revealing her identity. “There are many children and families that live around here and are breathing in this air.”

As of now the cause of the fire is still unknown. 

Lola Rivera

Lola Rivera

Senior at New York Institute of Technology in Manhattan. Reporter Intern for Shades of Long Island. Managing Editor of the Manhattan Globe. Instagram: @lola.nicole

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