"WITH TRAGEDY COMES OPPORTUNITY"
By Charlotte Helston
When Dale Danallanko looks at the gaping hole where the recycling facility used to be, he looks beyond the scorched metal and piles of ashes. The manager of recycling and disposal facilities operations envisions what could be rebuilt.
"It's strange to think I drove by on Friday and it was there, but on Saturday, it was gone," Danallanko says. "We're all still in shock. It's been a very challenging week."
The fire engulfed the facility's main building one week ago and inflicted over $1 million in damages. Insurance investigators and the Vernon Fire Department couldn't figure out where the fire started, or what sparked it. The cause will never be known, and that's okay with Danallanko.
"The bottom line is it burned down," he says. "Now it's about moving forward."
In the aftermath of the fire, staff had to act quickly to keep the recycling operation moving. Coordinating with the area's other facilities and setting up temporary collecting areas meant little impact was transferred to the public.
"Everyone's goal was the same: to maintain our program, and maintain our service to the public," Danallanko says.
Throughout the week, not a single resident was told to take their material home, and not one blue bin was passed by on the street. Beyond the gates of the scorched facility, everything remained normal.
Within the facility, more changes are to come. Under provincial regulations coming in May, the responsibility for recyclables will shift from governments and taxpayers to industry and consumers. The new management may prefer to collect materials at the site, but move them to Kelowna for processing, rather than build a whole new facility in Vernon.
This would have repercussions on the companies that service the site: Bluewater Project Inc. and Venture Training. About 30 employees were laid off this week, and while RDNO has some work available for Venture Training staff at other sites, those at Bluewater are forced to go on Workers Compensation. If a contract for the facility isn't renewed in May, they won't ever get their jobs back.
"We sent an expression of interest Friday afternoon for our facility to be used," Danallanko says. That was before it burned down. "It's one of those Murphy's Law things."
Right now, material is being amassed in Vernon, then sent to Cascades Recovery Inc. in Kelowna for processing. RDNO has to pay a certain amount for the trucking, but it's nothing compared with the lost Vernon jobs.
But Danallanko's had enough of the bad luck streak. He prefers to stay optimistic, and find the silver lining amongst the rubble.
"The facility has been there since the '80s, the buildings were old. Now we have the chance to build something better."
Given the chance to rebuild, Danallanko says the overall layout of the facility could be improved. While functional, the old facility had its challenges, and Danallanko says it was the hard work of staff that kept it going. In 6-12 months, he hopes to see the facility in Vernon flourishing more than it was before the fire.
"A lot has happened in the last 168 hours," Danallanko says. "There was nothing in writing on how to deal with Bluewater burning down. A lot of people deserve credit for getting us where we are."
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com or call (250)309-5230.