Cause sought after fire at Newark recycling plant

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NEWARK, Calif. (KTVU) -- Alameda County residents and businesses were advised to shelter in place  overnight Friday after a huge blaze broke out earlier in the afternoon at a Newark paper recycling site.

At 5:33 p.m. Alameda County Fire Department tweeted the fire was contained and that there was extensive overhaul & air monitoring in progress, but no reports of injuries. 

Aerial video from the site showed large flames and a thick black plume of smoke rising from the site, located in the 6500 block of Smith Avenue. The four-alarm fire was reported after 3 p.m. and firefighters were seen with hoses as they sought to contain and extinguish the blaze.

It was not immediately clear what sparked the blaze, but it is under investigation and officials said it does not appear suspicious.

"Seems like every other year there is a fire there," said Marcus Partida of Oak Harbor Freight, waiting on the street with co-workers, unable to begin their night shifts. "Then some other company takes over, and it will repeat. This is not the first time we've had to sit and wait."  

The building is apparently owned by Western Pacific Pulp and Paper, which moved out of the building a year ago and began subleasing it to AHG Recycling, officials at the scene said. 

"Our big priority was we didn't want it to spread to any other buildings, so we had to lay a lot of hose lines," Alameda County Fire Deputy Chief Jim Call told KTVU. Firefighters from Hayward and Fremont responded to the scene.

Newark police advised motorists to avoid the area of Cherry Street between Mowry and Central Avenues while firefighters fought the blaze.

"We stayed inside, thinking it could be toxic, " Sherri Urich told KTVU, on the porch of her home downwind from the fire. With two children, Urich didn't need to be told to avoid breathing the smoke, but an automated call did go to 5,000 residents advising them to shelter in place.  

Businesses in the area were evacuated as a precaution, but no homes were evacuated, authorities said.