Whether from engine troubles or an accident, car fires are a headache for all involved. Some states allow fire departments to bill owners for costs associated with putting them out. Even in states that have banned the practice, owners must file police reports and claims, handle property damage, and secure new temporary and permanent transportation. In Miami-Dade, Florida, a recent auto fire made local news headlines. But this wasn’t a single car. It was a whole junkyard full.
The junkyard fire
If you happened to catch the local news on Saturday, December 11, you might have seen a news item about a junkyard fire. Starting at 1:15 pm, the fire raged at Chavez Used Auto Parts, near Northwest 54th Street and 32nd Avenue, as per 7 News WSVN.
The fire’s smoke could be seen several miles away. Such fires can be hazardous, not just because of the air pollution. According to FEMA, vehicle fires can burn hotter than 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. When vehicles burn, they produce toxic gases. Further, debris is often expelled and sent flying in the air at high speeds. A car that bursts apart from a fire can send shrapnel from engine parts to axles passing in every direction.
Gasoline is, of course, highly flammable, creating the risk of a car explosion. And when dealing with electric or hybrid vehicles, the fire can create additional hazards. Vapor, methanol, or ethanol are all flammable and can cause fires to burn hotter and longer than usual.
Electric vehicles, too, are a problem. Firefighters trying to handle burning car batteries can put themselves at risk of electric shock. And because of the design of EV car batteries, they may continue to burn even after you think you put them out.
Several Miami-Dade firefighters converged on the scene and immediately began restricting traffic access and foot traffic in the immediate vicinity. According to Sky 10, the area was restricted for more than an hour as these first responders got the fire under control.
Working together, these firefighters could contain and extinguish the blaze rapidly. Some firefighters worked from above, with hoses affixed to fire truck ladders hoisted over the blaze. Dropping water from above helped suffocate the flames while giving firefighters the distance needed from the fire to keep them safe.
The fire was officially noted as extinguished by fire officials at 5:30 pm. When the fire was out, a crane was used to remove cars that were beyond salvageable. While these cars were in various states of disrepair before the fire, workers could still retrieve spare parts, sell them, and earn some revenue. Reporters captured images of several smoldering husks from which no used auto parts could be taken.
Thankfully, no one, including the junkyard workers, firefighters, or bystanders. were injured by the blaze. The cause of the fire was unknown at the time of reporting. However, officials at the scene did not find any indication that the cause was suspicious. It could have easily been a worker cutting a car open with a torch, or perhaps an electric vehicle that was crushed before its battery was removed and disposed of.
Such fires are not uncommon at junkyards. In fact, other junkyard fires made the news in Miami-Dade in 2021. For example, on October 21, Miami-Dade firefighters extinguished a blaze at a junkyard in Medley, according to WSVN. No injuries occurred. According to Sky 10, on July 20, about 30 cars burned at a junkyard in Opa-Locka at 3380 Northwest 127th Street. Firefighters were able to get the blaze under control without injuries.
Indeed, junkyard fires are not uncommon across the board. Firefighters deal with them fairly frequently. These fires often aren’t suspicious and can be chalked up to something accidental. But they can pose unique risks to firefighters given the nature of the burning materials. Again, thankfully, no one was hurt.