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Bonzi Recycling fire not as big as 2006 inferno
Large bundles of recyclable papers and plastics caught fire yesterday morning, blackening adjacent fields and sending up nasty plumes of black smoke above the Bonzi Recycling yard on Morgan Road.

The fire was de ja vu for firefighters from throughout the county who battled a similar blaze at the facility on Sept. 14, 2006. The fire may have been caused the same way the 2006 was set: a spark caused when bales of paper were being dragged across the asphalt.

Public Safety Director Art deWerk estimated that yesterday's 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," said deWerk.

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. Some businesses were evacuated. Residents sensitive to breathing issues were told to stay inside their homes.

DeWerk said fire suppression efforts were wrapped up by Tuesday afternoon. The 2006 fire required 16 hours of firefighter attention.

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

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

A detour around Morgan Road between Hatch and Whitmore coupled with 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 Rural, Modesto, Stanislaus Consolidated, Denair, Keyes and Westport.