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Hillsborough Fire Rescue: Spontaneous combustion likely sparked large scrap metal fire near Port Tampa Bay

Published Dec. 6, 2016

TAMPA — A large fire at a recycling plant near the Port Tampa Bay on Friday night began after chemicals clinging to pieces of scrap metal spontaneously combusted, according to investigators.

The fire began at Trademark Metals Recycling on Port Sutton Road around 5 p.m. Friday and quickly engulfed a pile of about 20 tons of scrap metal in the center of the lot. It was 3:30 a.m. Saturday before a rotating cast of dozens of firefighters contained the blaze by spraying it with a mixture of foam and water. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spent 11 hours clearing debris.

The fire never reached nearby structures, including several large diesel fuel tanks at a neighboring facility. No one was injured in the blaze.

Interviews with the crew and footage from on-scene thermal imaging surveillance cameras helped determine the cause of the fire, Fire Rescue said.

Crew members at Trademark Metals said they were working in the scrap pile when it began to smoke and eventually burst into flames. This may have been caused when materials in the pile oxidized. Those chemical reactions likely created heat, and that heat was trapped and continued to build inside the pile, according to a release from Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

Large fires have sparked at Trademark Metals before. In December 2007 a fire in a 50-foot-high pile of scrap metal created 6,000 tons of burning debris. In October 2011, a fire started in a pile of household machinery and appliances. That fire burned for nine hours. The 2007 fire lasted two days.