Print Another recycling bin torched in Verde Valley
Written by {ga=cgraham}   
Tuesday, 11 October 2011 00:00

Sedona Recycles hit fourth time by sixth fire in the area

Someone torched another recycling bin in the Verde Valley.

The sixth and most recent fire hit a Sedona Recycles paper recycling bin after 5 a.m., Sept. 25, across Camino Real from Mingus Union High School, just outside Cottonwood city limits in the Verde Villages. The site was the same location as the first fire, which took place in early July.

“This was a paper bin, so burned hotter and did more damage,” Sedona Recycles Executive Director Jill McCutcheon said.

“The bin was probably pretty full,” she said. The fire was likely not reported for some time as the blaze did considerable damage before firefighters arrived.

According to Cottonwood Police Department Sgt. Gareth Braxton, a 60-year-old man passed the site around 5:10 a.m. taking his brother to work. He passed by again at 5:30 a.m., saw smoke and called 911. The witness reportedly did not see any people or vehicles in the area.

Sedona Recycles employee Shaun Rabbass looks at a damaged recycling bin Saturday, Oct. 1, after the paper recycling unit was hauled back to Sedona following another suspicious fire in Cottonwood last week. Since July, four of Sedona Recycles’ bins have been damaged by fire, which Cottonwood police and firefighters are treating as possible arson.Cottonwood Fire Department Fire Lt. Jeff Boyd told Cottonwood police that CFD crews found the bin smoking but not ablaze when they arrived shortly afterward, Braxton stated.

The fire was extinguished by 5:48 a.m., Fire Chief Mike Casson said.

“We’re treating this as a suspicious fire, investigated as possible arson,” Casson said. The investigation is being handled by CFD Fire Marshal Rick Contreras, the Verde Valley Fire Investigation Task Force and Cottonwood police.

“If there is anything I can say, it’s that it’s unfortunate that good materials are going up in smoke,” said Alex Rovang, Sedona Recycles’ director of Education and Community Outreach. “Problems arise from our property being damaged, but the unfortunate thing is that materials that could have a second life are just getting burned. Who benefits from that?”

The first fire at the same site hit a Sedona Recycles cardboard recycling bin in early July in the early morning.

On July 18, a second fire took place in another Sedona Recycles cardboard recycling bin at the full drop-off site located in the north end of the Wal-Mart parking lot, again in the early morning.

A third fire struck a Verde Earthworks newspaper recycling bin at the company’s Sixth Street location, just north of State Route 89A on July 20 around noon.

A trash bin containing broken furniture was set on fire before 6 a.m. Aug. 7. The bin was located behind a Cottonwood rental store in a strip mall southwest of the intersections of State Routes 89A and 260.

On Aug. 18, the same Sedona Recycles bin at the Wal-Mart location was set on fire again, around 4:30 a.m.

The Sept. 25 blaze was the sixth fire, and the fourth to hit Sedona Recycles.

After each fire, Sedona Recycles staff removes the burned bins, grinds down the metal to remove the blistered paint, replaces the lids, repaints the bin and returns it to the site. Rovang estimated the cost runs between $300 and $500 for each restoration.

“Whether it’s childish or malicious, it’s just disheartening,” Rovang said. “We’re just learning to deal with it.”

Sedona Recycles has sent out newsletters to area residents, asking them to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and to call police, McCutcheon said.

Sedona Recycles staff has asked Wal-Mart employees to redirect surveillance cameras at the site in the store’s parking lot. Setting up a surveillance camera at the Camino Real site is more difficult. The drop-off site is surrounded by an open field and relatively isolated from neighboring homes.

“It’s not visible by anybody, just some homes a pretty good distance away,” she said.

McCutcheon said she has looked into setting up cameras, but the costs are relatively high, she said, and there’s nothing to prevent a potential arsonist from destroying the camera at the same time he or she starts a fire. However, she will be looking at options.

Under Arizona Revised Statutes’s criminal code, reckless burning is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. Additionally, those convicted of arson are liable under civil code for firefighting and police investigative expenses and could be open to lawsuits for property damage.

Anyone with information about the fires can contact the Cottonwood Police Department at 634-4246.