Crews are battling a fire that began early Thursday morning at a metal recycling plant along the Saint John Harbour.
Three schools have been forced to close because of the smoke, and people living near the American Iron and Metal recycling plant were advised to stay inside.
"There's quite a bit of smoke in the area," said Saint John Fire platoon chief Ed Moyer.
Saint John High School, Saint Malachy's Memorial High School and St. John the Baptist/King Edward Schools all closed at 8:50 a.m.
Air quality in th e city has deteriorated significantly. According to the federal government air quality index, conditions are at "moderate risk," or four out of 10 as of 9 a.m. At 8 a.m., conditions were at one, or "low risk."
There have been no reports of injuries from the fire, which Moyer said started at about 1 a.m. in a pile of compressed cars and metals.
The burning pile is 100 feet high, 300 feet long and 200 feet wide, Moyer said.
There have been some small explosions in this scrap pile, and crews are working to make sure flames don't spread to other piles.
Crews are focusing on making sure the fire in one pile of scrap doesn't spread to other piles. (Submitted by Ed Moyer)
Kathleen McNamara, who lives about a quarter of a kilometre from the scrapyard, said that as the fog started lifting Thursday morning she could see flames and smoke.
"It's shocking, actually," she said.
She said she could smell an "awful" acidic smell, and she's concerned about the air quality.
"This is probably the biggest fire they've had from what I know," she said of the scrapyard.
AIM's Saint John operation has been the subject of controversy for years. Explosions at the yard have awakened and worried people living on the lower west side, and there were two workplace deaths within a seven-month period between 2021 and 2022.
Flames, obscured by fog and smoke, raging at the American Iron and Metal scrapyard. (Roger Cosman/CBC)
AIM is now facing workplace safety charges related to the death of one of the workers, Darrell Richards.
Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon said the fire is another example of why this kind of industry should not be so close to residential areas.
"If this was farther out and disasters were to happen, say that whole thing catches on fire, it limits the amount of damage to people and to your citizens," she said.
Port Saint John said it was notified of the AIM fire shortly after 1:45 a.m., and its emergency response plan was activated.
"Our main priority at this time is the safety of everyone involved," the port statement said. "We will continue to keep the community informed as more facts of the incident are confirmed."
The Saint John Police Force says it received a high volume of calls about smoke around the westside Saint John metal recycling facility. (Roger Cosman/CBC)
The port land is federally owned, Reardon said.
Saint John police said emergency crews are on site "of a large outside fire" on the city's west side.
"We are receiving a high volume of calls for the smell of smoke," police said.