Crews respond to 3-alarm fire

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Latest: 10:30 pm, 7/15/16, Friday

URBANA — A fire all but destroyed this business, and it’s not the first time it’s happened.

Staff say Mack’s recycling caught fire this afternoon because of an equipment malfunction. Four workers were inside at the time– but they got out in time. Employees started picking up the pieces Friday afternoon, and they say having to do it for the second time is taking an emotional toll.

Mack’s staff say employees were using a torch machine to cut up old cars, when it started releasing sparks and flames. Those spread to a 500-gallon oil drum. And by that time–

“We tried getting it out with hoses from fire extinguishers. Nothing could stop it.”

Manager Rob McCartney the failure to contain the flames isn’t from a lack of equipment training.

“Fully trained, they know exactly how to use it. Every month, we go over different scenarios, different situations, how to use certain materials, certain ways we do things.”

Mack’s motto is “starting it over”– something they have extensive experience with. In December 2013, a fire rendered their facility on Lincoln avenue a total loss. For McCartney, this is deja vu.

“It’s very difficult to watch. I’m a fourth generation, and you sit here and you watch it go down in flames. You work so hard over the years since I’ve been alive, and my dad, my grandfather, my great grandfather. All the family members that are involved, it’s very difficult to watch, to see this happen to our family for a second time.”

As crews from several fire departments rolled in, so did plenty of spectators.

“We didn’t get all the way to Champaign and we were having people call us, asking, is it your house? is it your house? No, it’s Mack’s.”

Mack’s crew spent the afternoon salvaging what they could, saying they hope the community’s support doesn’t have to be.

“We’ve probably lost the majority of everything, but we hope that being a family and pushing through it. A lot of people know us within this community, a lot of people trust us. I hope that we continue to serve this community.”

Mack’s says they have insurance to cover at least some of the damage. Fire officials say one firefighter went to the hospital to get checked out, but they don’t believe his injuries are serious. They say crews will be monitoring the site throughout the night to make sure there are no incidents. The news of this fire spread very fast today. The smoke could be seen from miles away. Our sky cameras clearly picked it up from our roof in Champaign, but it was visible from even farther places.

“It’s like way up in the sky. I got calls, people saw it from Rantoul. They saw it from marketplace mall. They were calling me, saying, ‘are you okay?’ we see your house, what’s happening?'”

Update: 4:20 pm, 7/15/16, Friday

URBANA — Crews are on the scene of a 3-alarm fire in the 1309-block of Kerr Avenue, at Mack’s Recycling. At least five fire departments are on the scene.

Staff say they were using a blowtorch to cut up a car when it got out of control. No injuries have been reported.

Some area roads are closed to traffic. 

Original: 3:30 pm, 7/15/16, Friday 

URBANA — Crews are on the scene of a 3-alarm fire in the 1309-block of Kerr Avenue, at Mack’s Recycling.

We have a crew en route. We’ll update this story as it develops.

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