Saint John mayor ponders sending bill to AIM for fire coverage

Click to play video: 'Saint John calls for tax reform amid recycling facility fire costs' Saint John calls for tax reform amid recycling facility fire costs
After a metal recycling facility at the port went up in flames, the mayor of Saint John says the city could be on the hook for the cost of the emergency response on land it doesn't own – Sep 25, 2020

The mayor of Saint John said he has asked city staff to investigate whether or not it can send a bill to a metal recycling facility for an emergency response after a fire broke out at the facility Thursday night.

And Don Darling said the fire is another example on a long list of reasons why his city needs municipal tax reform.

Saint John Fire Platoon Chief Steve Vautour said the fire broke out at American Iron and Metal (AIM) at Port Saint John around 10:30 p.m. Thursday. Although an official cause is not yet, he said it’s believed a hot piece of metal came into contact with some debris, known as “fluff,” removed from vehicles before they are shredded.

Read more: ‘It was big’: Another explosion reported at AIM recycling facility in Saint John

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Vautour said it took crews about two hours to get the fire under control, with the last fire apparatus departing the scene around 4 a.m.

Facility General Manager Michael Cormier declined to comment when contacted by Global News, other than to say he was pleased with the work of first responders. The company put a message on its AIM Recycling Saint John Facebook page.

“The fire was quickly contained and controlled and there are no injuries,” the message said. “At this time, the cause of the fire remains unknown.

“AIM is cooperating with the fire department and local authorities to determine the exact cause of the blaze.”

Vautour confirmed there were no injuries to firefighters or company staff.

American Iron and Metal (AIM) recycling facility on fire in Saint John on September 24, 2020. Tim Roszell/Global News

Port Saint John also declined to comment, but posted similar messaging on social media.

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But Darling said the fire is another example of a broken system.

“There’s a cost related to these types of events,” Darling said. “I’m interested to know if the city can send a bill to AIM for not only stand-by costs but for the response costs as well.”

AIM has a long-term lease on Crown land at Port Saint John and is regulated by the province.

Last year, two Saint John community groups lobbied the New Brunswick government to force AIM to move because of concerns over noise and air quality.

Read more: Saint John community groups call for changes to AIM’s licence

Darling said the city had no choice in the facility’s location, but must provide emergency services to land it does not govern.

He said provincial tax reform is needed to recognize Saint John as an industrial hub.

“We have more industry here than most other cities in the country or the region,” Darling said. “So this is an example where it’s federal land, no jurisidiction, provincially-regulated, but when something happens we’re called on to respond.”

Global News spoke with many residents in the area who said they were not aware of the fire, although several said it can be difficult to distinguish emergencies from regular work days there.

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