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Massive salvage fire in York County knocked down

Written by Staff Report/The York Daily Record | Jul 14, 2017 4:52 AM
red_lion_salvage_yard_fire.jpg

Heavy black smoke could be seen for miles from the fire at a salvage yard in Windsor Township.(Photo: York Area Regional Police)

(Red Lion) -- Sparks from a tool being used by an employee at Red Lion Salvage on Thursday ignited a fire in a detached fuel tank, police said, leading to a massive fire and column of black smoke.

The fire broke out at the Windsor Township salvage yard at 1:46 p.m in the 300 block of Craley Road.

A business building and adjacent vehicles caught on fire, according to York Area Regional Police. The fire then spread to more cars.

There was one employee injured during the ignition of the fire. That person was transported to York Hospital, police said.

Shelby Painter sent the York Daily Record this video from the scene of the fire Thursday in Red Lion. Shelby Painter

York Area Regional Police Detective Donald Hopple said from the scene that he was unsure the extent of injuries of the employee who suffered burns.

An employee, Hopple said, was using an electrical grinder to remove straps from a gas tank when the sparks ignited gasoline nearby.

Scene from miles around

Plumes of thick, black smoke could be seen rising into the air from miles around. People shared numerous photos and videos on social media showing the fire from different areas.

The smoke lightened later in the afternoon as crews attacked the blaze.  

Russell Gerlitzki of Red Lion said at the scene that he had a couple of family members who work at the salvage yard. "I'm just trying to make sure my family's alright."

The call was upgraded to a third alarm, and at one point firefighters from about 25 departments were pumping thousands of gallons of water a minute on the blaze, according to Ira Walker, chief of Eureka Volunteer Fire Company in Stewartstown.

By 4 p.m., Walker said the bulk of the fire that damaged "lots of vehicles" was under control. He was manning a stream of water from atop a ladder truck above dozens of charred cars.

York Daily Record photographer Jason Plotkin ventures on top of a ladder truck with Eureka 54 to get footage of a salvage yard fire.

 

"The main challenge is the fact that you have all these automobiles," Walker said. "You gotta be able to get the fire around, and you can only do that either being above in the air or like they are down there."

Another challenge was getting sufficient water supply to the scene as well as the weather.

"It's been pretty humid and hot today," he said. "The guys took a whooping in the beginning."

There were some utility trailers that had gasoline and oil, and the chief said they had to be prepared for possible explosions.

Firefighters took an approach with water from a higher vantage point, partly because of firefighter safety.

"We're not saving anything. We have a bunch of scrap cars," Walker said. "So there's no need to do anything that's going to jeopardize the safety of the people."

He was also concerned about runoff of those same products into any nearby streams or creeks. He said that's why state environmental officials were dispatched to the scene.

Ryan Rager, a Eureka firefighter working with Walker on the ladder truck said he saw fire blowing from several cars. 

His strategy for quelling the flames? "Surround and drown," he said.

Later in the day, crews were digging up and removing charred vehicles from the scene.

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

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