Crews put blaze out, blame no one

Smithfield business in compliance with safety codes, fire chief says

Staff WriterOctober 23, 2006 

Fire officials don't think foul play or negligence provoked a fire that raged Saturday and Sunday at a scrap metal recycling facility outside Smithfield.

The four-alarm fire broke out just after 1 p.m. at Atlantic Scrap & Processing, a facility that recycles metal objects such as cars and refrigerators.

More than 75 firefighters from a dozen Johnston County fire departments battled the fire over the weekend, Smithfield fire chief Patrick Harris said. They managed to extinguish the last embers about 9 a.m. Sunday.

The facility is closed on weekends, and no one was injured. The blaze also spared the facility's building, Harris said.

While much of the material was combustible and presented a challenge to firefighters, nothing in the debris was hazardous. The objects were waiting to be processed.

No one was evacuated, though an emergency shelter was set up at West Smithfield Elementary School. No one took advantage of the shelter, Harris said.

Firefighters contained the burning heap to an area the size of a football field, Harris said.

A black cloud hovered over the area through Saturday night. As it shifted away from the facility, the state Department of Transportation and the Highway Patrol monitored visibility for drivers traveling along nearby Interstate 95. Railroad engineers passing through the area Saturday and Sunday were also alerted about potential problems with visibility.

Harris said air and water quality officials also kept tabs on the fire Saturday night.

Atlantic Scrap & Processing, which operates metal recycling centers throughout the state, was in compliance with local fire and safety codes at their Smithfield plant, Harris said.

"Unfortunately, sometimes these things just happen despite how proactive you are," Harris said.

Staff writer Mandy Locke can be reached at 829-8927 or mandy.locke@newsobserver.com.

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