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NF cardboard fire 'could have been much, much worse'

Large plumes of flames and smoke could be seen billowing across Niagara Falls overnight, as emergency crews battled an industrial fire on College Avenue near Hyde Park - the third since 2014 involving the same company.Niagara Gazette Editor Mark Scheer tells WBFO the property is owned by Santarosa Holdings, a storage facility for Norampac/Greenpac, which makes containerboard packaging in the city. The property recently underwent a safety inspection by city officials including its fire department.

"One of the recommendations was that they keep the piles separate, so if one catches fire, they can kind of concentrate on watering down the others, so that it avoids (fire) jumping from pile to pile," Scheer told WBFO.

Melson told WBFO that the company appeared to be following recommendations and, although fire investigators had yet to determine a cause, there were no apparent blatant safety violations on the site.

"They passed that inspection. I know there's a lot of questions about that property being cited. There were some code violations but they had to do with clean neighborhood issues on College Avenue," Melson said. "Some debris on College Avenue, nothing that was a safety concern."

The fire started before 11 p.m. Monday and was brought under "substantial control" by early Tuesday. Falls Fire Chief Tom Colangelo said large equipment had to be brought onto the site to break apart the industrial-sized linerboard bundles and that crews expected to be present all day.

Colangelo said there was no danger to residents, as the fire was contained in an industrial area of the city.

Scheer said this is the third fire for Norampac/Greenpac since 2014.

"The first one was at the Norampac site off Packard Road That's where they originally started storing the materials," Scheer said. "That was a very big fire. That lasted like five days. And then they had another one about a year later, that was a smaller fire at the Packard Road facility. This is the first one at College Avenue."

As firefighters continued working to put out the final flames at the scene, Melson said there was no cause for concern for nearby residential neighborhoods. Had the fire occured during the school year, he told WBFO, there would have been no cause for concern to the elementary school located approximately 1,000 feet south of the scene.

No injuries were reported.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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