Huge trash fire in Jamaica was triggered by ‘improperly disposed’ battery, ruled accidental: FDNY

A four-alarm fire at the Royal Waste Plant in Jamaica on March 16 led to massive service suspensions on the Long Island Rail Road.
Photo by Phil Mackie/RHS NEWS

Firefighters finally brought under control on Saturday morning a five-alarm inferno that broke out on Friday at a Jamaica recycling plant.

According to the Fire Department, the blaze started just after noon on March 16 at the Royal Waste Services plant located at 187-40 Jamaica Ave. On Saturday morning, the FDNY tweeted that that the accidental fire was triggered by an improperly disposed lithium ion battery.

The flames quickly spread through the rubbish outside of the facility, sending a plume of black smoke over the area. For a time, it also brought much of the Long Island Rail Road to a standstill.

More than 200 firefighters responded to the scene along with EMS units. One firefighter suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

FDNY Assistant Chief Edward Baggott said late on Friday afternoon that it could take firefighters up to 18 hours to fully extinguish the blaze due to the size. The fire engulfed a large pile of cardboard materials and newspapers stored on the site.

“We will remove some of the accumulated burning rubbish and cart it out in heavy dumpsters,” Baggott said. “It’s going to be a long, protracted operation through the night and into tomorrow.”

The situation forced the LIRR to suspend most service east of Jamaica on Friday afternoon. The LIRR’s main line runs adjacent to the Royal Waste Services plant, close to the Hillside Maintenance Facility.

The plume of smoke rising above the LIRR Main Line near the Hillside Support Facility in Jamaica. (photo via Twitter/@LIRR)
The plume of smoke rising above the LIRR Main Line near the Hillside Support Facility in Jamaica. (photo via Twitter/@LIRR)

As of 3:30 p.m. on March 16, only trains on the Babylon, West Hempstead and Montauk branches were running (service on the Port Washington line was not affected, as it’s nowhere near the site of the fire). Normal service on the Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma, Oyster Bay and Hempstead branches were completely suspended for a time, although some very limited service resumed as the afternoon rush hour began.

Just after 10:15 p.m., the LIRR reported on Twitter that service on the branches had been restored, and was running at or close to schedule.

Check the LIRR Twitter page or MTA.info for more updates.

This article was updated at 11:35 a.m. on March 17.