NORTH ANDOVER — A four-alarm fire heavily damaged the Thompson Brothers Industries recycling plant at 210 Holt Road Tuesday night.
North Andover firefighters were joined by crews from numerous communities in bringing the massive blaze under control. No injuries were reported and the building was unoccupied when the fire broke out at around 6:30 p.m., according to North Andover Fire Lt. Michael Beirne, who briefed reporters at the scene.
The cause of the fire had not been determined late Monday night, he said.
North Andover Fire Chief William McCarthy commanded the firefighting operation.
A large plume of thick black smoke could be seen from miles around. Thomson Brothers recycles discarded construction materials, so the fire was fed by large quantities of junk wood, Beirne said.
The area around Holt Road is sparsely populated. When the first crews were heading north on Route 125, they could see the smoke but initially were unsure of the location, Beirne said.
He described the blaze as a “deep-seated fire.” Firefighters were determined to get “as much water as we can” on the huge burning mass.
Engines drew water from four hydrants, Beirne said. The water supply near the plant was limited, he said, so firefighters opened a hydrant on the other side of Route 125 near the entrance to Holt Road – more than a half mile away.
Haverhill Engine 4 and Middleton Engine 2 set up a relay pumping system, with the Haverhill truck drawing water from the hydrant and pumping it through a 5-inch hose to the Middleton engine.
Engine 2 then pumped through a 4-inch hose to a Lawrence ladder truck, which sprayed water on top of the burning plant. Companies from Methuen, Andover, Boxford, Topsfield, Groveland and North Reading also helped bring the fire under control.
Tewksbury provided station coverage. Fire Chiefs Brian Moriarty of Lawrence and William Laliberty of Haverhill were among the many responders on Holt Road.
Two hours after the fire started, it was still sending out huge clouds of black smoke. The scene is close to the Lawrence Municipal Airport, but the wind, blowing to the north, kept the smoke away from the runways, Beirne said.
The airport did not appear to be affected by the fire, Beirne said. Police blocked Route 125 between 1600 Osgood St. and Barker Street.
The Massachusetts Department of Fire Services sent a hazardous materials response team. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection monitored air quality in the area.
Beirne recommended that residents close their windows to keep out the smoke.
The plant had less serious fires two years ago and in August 2012.
An excavator at the plant caught fire in August 2017. That blaze was knocked down in 15 minutes, McCarthy said at that time.
Demolition debris at the plant ignited late one night in August 2012. The sprinkler system helped contain that fire and the building did not sustain major structural damage.
The fire was under control within 45 minutes.