SJ firefighters search for cause of pallet recycling center blaze

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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A fire broke out Tuesday morning at the Chualar Pallet Recycle on Maybury Road in San Jose.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- San Jose investigators are looking into how a roaring fire at a pallet recycling yard started early Tuesday morning.

As bad as it was, it could have been much worse. Firefighters had to pull the propane tanks and the flames brushed closed to the lumber yard next door.

A watery mess remains behind at Chualar Pallet Recycle on Mabury Road just off Oakland Road in San Jose. Firefighters spent hours making sure no spark could survive. Flames shot up 35-to-40 feet high.

A second alarm was called as firefighters went defensive, surrounding the flames and shooting water on hundreds of pallets.

A surveillance camera at Mabury Auto Body and Repair next door captured the first flames. An employee there started spraying water, but it was too late. The flames were just too much for a garden hose. The fire was now out of control.

"It was hard to control the fire because it's dry wood and it goes fast. I was afraid the flames would get into my shop, you know," said Nery Zuniga of Mabury Auto Body & Repair.

Several auto body shops run adjacent to the pallet recycler and cars were exposed to the heat. Paint was bubbled, windows exploded and metal melted, but the good news is no one was injured.

Firefighters and business owners are now dealing with what was left behind.

"We're going to use a back hoe and pull apart a lot of the piles of debris and get in there. There will be an extensive overhaul operation," said Battalion Chief Robert Bacon.

The recycler says it could be a week before they re-open. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.