At Dietz site, unwelcome reminders of the fire

Workers clean up the Dietz & Watson warehouse in Delanco, where odors and haze still linger nearly two weeks after an 11-alarm fire tore through the building Sept. 1.
Workers clean up the Dietz & Watson warehouse in Delanco, where odors and haze still linger nearly two weeks after an 11-alarm fire tore through the building Sept. 1. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 15, 2013

DELANCO A haze in the air smells like rotten or charred meat, an unmistakable sign that there was a fire here.

Nearly two weeks after an 11-alarm blaze destroyed a Dietz & Watson warehouse in this Burlington County township, some residents are complaining of a stench from spoiled meat and the haze from the still-smoldering fire.

A company spokesman said that Dietz & Watson was committed to cleaning up the site and that demolition of the warehouse had started.

"My wife told me it smells like hot dogs upstairs. Some people said it smells like a barbecue today," Jim Hampson, 54, who lives in Edgewater Park a few hundred feet from the warehouse, said Thursday. "But it just mostly stinks. To me . . . it's a burnt-building smell."

Robert Thomas, 43, who also lives in Edgewater Park, said Friday: "Every day it's getting a little worse. It smells like wet, burnt wood."

The blaze broke out around 1:45 p.m. Sept. 1 and was brought under control the next day. The possibility of shock from solar panels on the roof apparently hampered firefighters.

Delanco Fire Chief Ron Holt said a few minor hot spots remained this week in areas of the building that still were unsafe to enter.

On Wednesday, rubble ignited in the middle of the building, Holt said. The new blaze was reported around 8 p.m. and extinguished in two hours.

The cause of the original fire is still undetermined, Holt said.

This week, Dietz & Watson apologized to area residents in a news release. It said that it had begun working to demolish the building Wednesday and that contractors would "work tirelessly" to remove the damaged products.

Insurance adjusters and lawyers inspected the site Thursday, the company said.

"As fast as humanly possible, we want to get it done," Steve Riley, a company spokesman, said this week. "We want to take care of the people that live there."

Hampson, a civil engineer, moved to the neighborhood roughly seven years ago. He said pieces of the solar panels and baseball-size blobs, which he said looked like burned insulation, had fallen on his and other neighbors' lawns.

The smell and smoke have forced him to keep his doors and windows closed, said Hampson, who said he has called the Burlington County Health Department, Dietz & Watson, and others. He wants the smoldering extinguished fast.

"The smoldering piles are just creating more bad air for everybody," he said.

Air monitoring by the county Health Department during the fire and in the days following showed "no indication of any public health risks," county Freeholder Director Joseph Donnelly said Friday through a spokesman.

Holt said firefighters would be able to extinguish the hot spots once the meat is removed and those sections are safe to enter.

Thomas, a bookkeeper for several local tanning salons, said he recalled a robocall from Edgewater Park Township alerting him to negative air-quality results.

He said he wants the site cleaned up, but understands that will be a massive undertaking.


Contact Darran Simon at 856-779-3829 or at dsimon@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @darransimon.

 

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