GLOUCESTER — A two-alarm fire on the grounds of an auto salvage yard off Quarry Street sent up heavy smoke that was visible for miles Monday afternoon.

No injuries were reported, and city Fire Chief Eric Smith said firefighters were able to confine the blaze — and any damage — to a pile of about a dozen cars that had already been crushed as part of the salvage operation at Bayview Auto Recycling.

Neighbors and other witnesses reported hearing a series of “explosions” as firefighters battled the blaze, which broke out around 12:20 p.m. But Smith noted that the first phases of any salvage operation, including Bayview, is to clear any vehicles of any remaining gasoline or other hazardous materials and dispose of them.

“Any ‘explosions’ may have come from any tires — if there were any tires in the vehicles — or more likely from gas struts and hydraulics in some of the older vehicles,” Smith said. “When you get anything under pressure — any hydraulics or any type of container that’s going to rupture — it’s going to make a pop, like a balloon. But it’s not a case of any hazardous material.”

Bayview Auto Recycling, headed by Paul Blanding, buys, sells, rebuilds and recycles automotive parts.

Smith said it appeared the fire started within a pile of old cars that had been either fully or partially crushed by work crews. The blaze likely began when sparks from a torch being used to cut metal caught onto flammable parts of one of the adjacent vehicles in the same pile, he said.

When fire crews, with acting Lt. Linda Henry and Capt. Phil Harvey as incident commanders, responded to the scene, they recognized the source of the blaze, Smith said, and gave their top priority to ensuring the fire did not spread to any structures on the property.

“This was basically a car fire — a car fire on steroids,” Smith said.

Firefighters had the blaze knocked down by 1:20 p.m., though that’s when Smith ordered a second alarm to add manpower to prevent heat exhaustion for the firefighters battling the blaze.

Gloucester’s four engines, ladder and rescue car responded to the scene, and the previous shift was called back for duty. The fresh personnel worked to knock down any potential flareups and carry out an extensive overhaul. 

Additional crews from Rockport, Manchester and Essex assisted at the scene, while Beverly, Hamilton and Ipswich covered the Gloucester station. Firefighters from Rockport also provided coverage for Gloucester’s Bay View fire station.

Staff writer Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or via email at rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.

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