6 Departments Battle Massive Fire at Bay Area Recycling for Charities in Kaleva

“They looked up and basically the fire and the flames and the smoke, it just overtook it so fast.”

A large recycling business getting ready to close for the day erupted in a fast-moving inferno, with employees inside.

It took more than 170,000 gallons of water and six departments and flames still continued to destroy the Bay Area Recycling for Charities in Kaleva Tuesday night.

The call came in at about 3:30 in the afternoon about flames erupting at the facility off Industrial Drive.

Founder Andrew Gale compares it to a burning tire fire, thousands of pounds of recycled material like mattresses and electronics made the flames difficult to stamp out.

They were renting this building, but he says he was only days away from owning the business he’s been working to build for years.

“It’s devastating to see something like this just because you worked so hard, your life to build something and to see it go literally up in smoke is really sad,” says Gale

Gale heard it on the phone first, then saw the glow of destruction with his own eyes.

“It’s just a devastating fire. We recycle about 25,000 mattresses and thousands of refrigerators and millions of pounds of electronics here,” he said.

A mission he says that was only days away from reaching a milestone.

“We’ve been working really hard and getting ready to actually purchase the building next week and start the improvements to make it a safer, cleaner working environment,” Gale explained.

Now a mission lost in ashes.

“I don’t know. It might be a total loss. It’s just really sad that such a devastating thing happened.”

“This is the largest fire that I’ve been on in 35 years,” firefighter Jack McKinley said.

Maple Grove Fire Department’s Jack McKinley says workers inside smelled gas just before the inferno erupted.

Even as we spoke the walls crumbled.

“There was two employees in the building and they tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher and the sprinkler systems. There’s two valves for the sprinkle systems, they were both on, but other than that, she got out of control,” McKinley said.

More than 1,000 bales of heavy recycled material were incinerated.

The cause is still a mystery, one that will not stop Andrew’s dreams for the future.

“We’re not quitters. If you guys know the folks from BARC, we push through a lot of different things and we will push forward through this and we’ll continue our mission, God willing,” Gale said.

The commanding fire officer says investigators will start looking into the exact cause once everything is safe to do.

He also says there are no known toxins in this smoke and no one in the area around us is in any danger.