Scrap metal inferno near Tampa port under control

TAMPA, Fla. - It was the sort of spectacular blaze that screams disaster. 

But for all the flames, and all the smoke, and all the potential for problems, the fire barely moved the needle.

"How dangerous is a fire like this?" I asked Nacole Revette with Hillsborough Fire Rescue.

"It burns very hot," she said. "We had one diesel tank that was a concern this morning, but we put a ground monitor on that and it's not a concern at this time."

But it sure was when the initial calls came in -- just after 4 am… when witnesses reported a series of explosions coming from inside the fence at ONESteel Recycling at 4943 Port Sutton Rd.

"It sounded like rapid gunshots going off…" said Marcus Tenneson -- who was in the area near the intersection of Madison Avenue and 50th Street.  "It might have been shells in somebody's car that they had over there to scrap, you know."

Another man said it looked like a fireworks show just before the fire roared to life and then the pile of hot minced metal made its own energy -- essentially igniting itself -- which was the biggest worry for firefighters.  Well, that and all the thick, black smoke.

"Correct," said Revette. "The one positive thing this morning was the wind direction was in our favor and we did not have to shut down Highway 41."

Indeed, the brisk northerly breezes managed to spare nearby businesses and at least one school, just a mile or so away.

"Student safety is out top priority here," said Sharla Austin, Assistant Principal with LLT Academy Middle School on Madison Avenue.  "So when we determined where the wind was headed and it was not our direction, we knew we could go on about our day as normal."

As for the stack of smoldering scrap… it was literally drowned with water and foam from fire crews aided by ONESteel workers… workers whose managers did not want to talk on camera.

"They like one of the biggest scrap metal buyers in the state of Florida," said ONESteel Customer Kenny Ibraev.  He told us he's been doing business with ONESteel for quite awhile… and despite that looks of things today, he expects that to continue.

"And I was able to speak with one of the managers.  They told me they're still trying to figure out what was the cause, but thank God at least they're happy that there was no personal injuries."

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