TOWN OF NORWAY -- A massive fire at a recycling facility in western Racine County put pressure on responding firefighters from four different counties on Sunday, July 1.
The fire forced the closure of U.S. 45 between Six Mile and Seven Mile roads. The lanes were blocked shortly before 1 p.m. after the fire broke out at John's Disposal in the Town of Norway.
Fighting this fire was proving difficult due to the wind, the lack of hydrants in the area and the flammable materials at the facility. Around 9 p.m. Sunday, a pile of tires re-ignited, and smoke continued to pour out of the building.
"I've never seen so much black smoke in one area at once and so many fire trucks going up the road," said Jacob Bultman, who watched the building burn.
FOX6 News spoke with a former employee, who said the fire started outside and spread to a pile of tires, and then into one of the buildings where cardboard and other recycled materials are located. It then came out the other side of the building and started a trailer on fire. Workers jumped into the cab and drove the burning truck away from the fire.
The former employee said he volunteered to move about 20 other recycling trucks out of harm's way.
"I just feel bad for them because this was one of their worst fears and now it's happened. I wanted to help as much as I could," the former worker said.
With no hydrants nearby, firefighters raced to truck in water and then headed back the other way for more.
But the work of at least 18 agencies had little effect for hours because of the wind and flammable materials. Even an hourlong rainstorm Sunday afternoon seemed to be of little help.
Around 6:45 p.m., a giant truck from General Mitchell International Airport arrived and sprayed foam to knock down the flames. But the tires later reignited.
"I feel bad because now a lot of people are not going to be able to come to work on Monday," the former worker said.
A man who answered the phone at Wind Lake Fire Department on Sunday said the situation had improved but could not provide more information. Fire officials on scene did not say whether anyone was hurt or what started the fire.
Highway 45 closed for several hours Sunday but reopened to traffic in the evening.
FOX6 News has received the below video and photos from viewers: