OGDEN Sparks from a cutting torch ignited a raging fire that burned for hours at a recycling yard, destroying four buildings.
Huge columns of thick, black smoke filled the sky above Allied Metals, 555 W. 12th St., on Thursday morning. The blaze was sparked by a worker using a cutting torch to tear apart an old railroad car. Winds carried sparks to some dry brush nearby.
"There was a spark and then maybe two minutes there was fire," said Ignacio Contreras.
Contreras said he struggled to turn off the torch, grabbed a fire extinguisher and tried unsuccessfully to put out the blaze, then ran to tell his boss. Within minutes, flames were 25 feet high.
All of the employees evacuated the yard, and no one was injured.
The fire spread quickly through old wooden World War II-era military barracks. They housed straw, paper, scrap metal and other byproducts of a salvage yard. Explosions could be heard as fuel burned and tires popped. The smell of burning metal, paint and wood created a sickening stench in the air as the black smoke billowed over the area.
Ogden Fire Marshal Matt Schwenk said the fire burned at least 500 gallons of fuel that had been siphoned from the junked cars at the recycling yard. Entire cars were torched on the property.
"We've had access issues," Schwenk said. "We can't get the rigs in where they need to be."
Coincidentally, a wildland fire response business has its offices next door to Allied Metals. Bonneville Emergency Response Team firefighters used their equipment to help contain the fire.
"It was intense," Sean Beal said. "There were tires popping and mini-explosions and the heat of the fire. But it was smaller than what we normally do."
A portion of 12th Street was blocked off, creating a traffic jam that stretched back to Wall Avenue on one side and I-15 on the other.
As he toured the damage, Allied Metals co-owner Stuart Roper stopped to thank firefighters who saved his business. He said he wasn't concerned about the heavy damage.
"The buildings aren't a concern," he said. "People's safety is a concern."
He said the fire's impact on his business would be minimal.
"We're in the metal business and metal doesn't burn," Roper said.
Roper told the Deseret News that dry brush and grass has been a continual problem on the 14-acre property. To battle it, he's used sheep, goats and even llamas to do weed control. The animals were in a pen and not injured.Allied Metal was cleaning up the property to put gravel down in an effort to reduce dry grass and brush. A second location operates a few miles away, Roper said. All cutting will now be suspended at the 12th Street yard and moved to the other location.