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Bonzi catches fire - again
Large stacks of recyclable papers caught fire Tuesday morning, sending up plumes of black smoke above the Bonzi Recycling yard on Morgan Road.

A similar fire broke out at the facility on Sept. 14, 2006. That fire was caused when a bale of paper was being dragged across the asphalt parking lot with a forklift, causing the baling wire to heat up and ignite the newsprint. The same thing may have caused today's fire.

Public Safety Director Art deWerk estimated that the the fire was about a quarter of the size of the 2006 fire.

"Since the last fire the city, via the fire marshal, required Bonzi to seperate the paper into smaller batches so that if it ignited it would be easier to control."

Still, deWerk said his department will be sitting down with the company to look at the "avoidability of this fire."

"They're going to have to look at a different way. Bonzi has been a responsible member of the business community and I'm sure they don't want this happening again either. We will be following up with them on their practices. There will be more investigation."

The fire broke out at approximately 10:29 a.m. sending a thick black column of smoke that drew notice all over Ceres. DeWerk said no structures were threatened but flames charred six to seven acres of a neighboring parcel downwind owned by A.L. Morgan of Hughson.

DeWerk said fire suppression efforts should be wrapped up by Tuesday afternoon. The 2006 fire required 16 hours of firefighters' attention.

Fire officials say the fire fighting efforts could have been much worse had the fire broke out 24 hours earlier than high winds were sweeping through the Valley.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. Batallion Chief Brian Hunt said it's easy to ignite paper and that a spark of more than 125 degrees could have started it.

The fire occurred in the back of the Bonzi yard, directly behind the UPS facility on Rockefeller Drive.

The closure of Morgan Road between Hatch and Whitmore and the onlookers drawn to the huge column of smoke caused a major traffic problem on the west side. Even freeway traffic slowed to a crawl at times.

Neighboring agencies helped Ceres in the fire, including Turlock, Modesto, Stanislaus Consolidated, Denair, Keyes and Westport.