Huge Raleigh scrapyard fire sends clouds of smoke for miles around

Firefighters responded to a large fire at Wall Recycling in Raleigh on Tuesday evening.

Video Transcript

STEVE DANIELS: We are covering breaking news unfolding in Wake County tonight. I know a lot of you are seeing a large plume of very black smoke rising from the area near I-40 and Rock Quarry Road. This is it. Chopper 11 flying overhead right now. It's a fire burning at a scrapyard or a recycling facility. This is Wall Recycling right off Garner Road, just South of I-40. You can see there, Raleigh fire department is there on the scene. And take a close look at that, what they're dealing with. So much fuel for this fire in this scrapyard. Rob Marshall is our pilot in Chopper 11 flying overhead. What are your observations, Rob?

ROB MARSHALL: Good to see you, Steve. We're looking down at the recycling plant. Right now the main thing you're going to see is a big snorkel that's really trying to put out the flames pretty much in the center of all this scrap. Not going to go anywhere. It's sitting right there, so I'm not worried about this moving to any other spots around the area. Now, what you will see, especially if you're in downtown Durham, is a smoke plume that's really migrating directly to the west right over the top of downtown Durham.

There are a couple of other fire engines on the perimeter on the outside. They're really not doing anything. At this point, Steve, mainly the focus is on the snorkel right there trying to put this out. Now, I've covered a lot of tire fires and scrap metal fires in the past. This thing could be out in a few minutes. It could take days on the other end of the spectrum. We'll just have to see what happens in the future.

STEVE DANIELS: Yeah, that's my immediate concern as well, Rob, as I'm assessing this from your great video overhead from the air-- is what will it take to put it out? And it's always a good sign when we see a little bit of white smoke. That white smoke indicates that they are making progress, making headway, and knocking down the fuel there in that fire as opposed to black smoke. So we're seeing still quite a bit of black smoke but some glimpses there of white smoke. And, Rob, there's no telling what's in there. We've covered tire fires, scrapyard fires. And as you say, they can burn for days depending on how much fuel is in there.

And it's a little hard-- the sun's going down. It's getting a little dark. It's a little hard to tell exactly what's in there. I don't know if you can zoom in any tighter, and we can make some sense of this. If there are tires in there or if this is metal. We see a bunch of scrapped cars over there off to one side. It just looks like all kinds of stuff.

ROB MARSHALL: At this point, it's really hard to tell. I did see a sign on the very front of the building, and it did say, scrap metal. That's what we saw. But you are correct in the fact that with the snorkel getting as close to it as it is, you're definitely seeing more of a gray or a lighter color smoke. To be honest with you, to know what's inside it, we really don't know. Again, scrap metal probably. There could be some plastics in there as well just because the nature of this particular scrapyard. Again, we'll just have to wait and see.

But they're doing a real good job. There certainly have contained and are controlling this particular fire. But again, there's so much there, you really don't know how long it can continue to burn. It all depends again on whatever is inside the actual fuel that you were mentioning a minute ago. But I'm certainly not worried at all that it's going to expand outside of the perimeter or really outside of this particular pile of scrap.

STEVE DANIELS: That's quite a sight there in view from Chopper 11, that one sole firefighter at the top of that ladder truck right there actually controlling the output of that hose. That's really an extraordinary sight, something we don't see very often, when we can actually see that one firefighter there at the top of that ladder. That's really amazing. Is it possible, Rob, to give us a shot-- just show us what this looks like? I know you're south of downtown Raleigh. Can we see the Raleigh skyline? Can you pan up just so we can see what things look like, the proximity there and what that smoke is looking like over the city of Raleigh right now?

ROB MARSHALL: Standby right now. I'm going to get Brian to start moving the camera up and out towards downtown Raleigh. We should be coming up in a minute. It's a little bit long of a throw going out that direction, Steve, but just stand by real quickly. You can see the smoke trail right here coming up on I-40 on the Eastbound and just right on out. Keep on going, Brian. Keep going all the way to downtown, and you should pick up downtown in a second. It's not real thick as you can imagine, as you see out there, Steve.

STEVE DANIELS: Oh, yeah.

ROB MARSHALL: But there's definitely smoke and migrating right over top of downtown, no doubt about it.

STEVE DANIELS: Wow, OK. So that is really good. That really helps us place that smoke. I know there's so many people in the city of Raleigh right now wondering what the source of that smoke is. And, Rob, that's why we wanted to get you and Brian up in the air in Chopper 11 to find the source of this, to cover it from the air. The best way to cover this kind of thing is from your view there in Chopper 11. And as we're zooming back in there at this scrapyard-- Wall Recycling is what the place is called. We're looking at Raleigh firefighters. Two trucks there, which does tell us, Rob, that the indication would be that they're not concerned about this spreading, certainly beyond that scrap pile right there. So there's no risk of it going beyond that. But again, we don't know how long it'll take to put this thing out.

ROB MARSHALL: That's correct. Let me get Brian to pull out a little bit, just to the scrap yard itself. So it gives the viewers an idea of where it really sits and how far-- that's it, the edge of it right there. So there's really nothing out beyond. There are borders separating it from other structures, what not. It's not going to go anywhere but where it is right now.

One thing that I was trying to see, Steven, I really couldn't tell-- maybe you could see it better than I could. But at the top of the snorkel, I wasn't sure if there was an actual firefighter up top or if they were doing it remote controlled. I could not tell from my vantage point.

STEVE DANIELS: Yeah, it looked to me when you were zoomed in there a little tighter-- Brian's zooming in for us right now. I thought I saw a firefighter right-- yeah, you can see a firefighter there. Now he's coming into view, that one lone firefighter. What an extraordinary image there at the top of this ladder truck pointing that hose right there at the source of those flames. What a job he's doing. What a view he has as he's really the one firefighter right now attempting to knock down these flames, knock down the source of this fire at this recycling yard right in the heart of Raleigh.

ROB MARSHALL: And the big thing, too, that you got to worry about is, at least for right now it seems like they've got a very good source of water that they're able to utilize to get to this fire, and that's a massive amount of spray coming out right now. I can actually see the line going across and through the yard, going back out to the streets. And there are a couple other fire trucks out there. They may be pumping it from a source out there directly to him. But no doubt, they're putting out as much water as they possibly can. Again, this fire is, in my estimation, controlled and contained. It's just a matter of how long is it really going to take before they completely extinguish the fuel that they're trying to fight right now.

STEVE DANIELS: And it's pretty extraordinary to see how they're tackling this, their strategy here, where we see these other two pieces of heavy equipment there. What are essentially backhoes, but that's not precisely what that is. But those heavy pieces of equipment there.

ROB MARSHALL: Steven, I'm losing you a little bit because of my signal up here.

STEVE DANIELS: Yeah, I was just saying it's amazing to see that heavy machinery there clawing away at the pile of scrap there. It would seem that the strategy is to try to get to the source of the fire. And look at that, over to screen right there where there are some flames there. That was pretty amazing, the piece of heavy machinery. I don't know if we can direct Brian with the camera over there to screen right, but that other piece of heavy machinery was really pulling out some scrap there. And you could see red, hot flames burning there in the pile of scrap there, so it looks like they have their work ahead of them there this evening.

ROB MARSHALL: Absolutely. Yeah, and there's one that's really consumed inside the smoke on the downwind side. The other's on the upwind side. And you're exactly right as to what you said a minute ago-- get Brian to pull back out again. Right now they are. They're trying to move that scrap metal or scrap whatever it is around so they can try to get more of the water down into that fuel, move it around, try to extinguish as you go down lower into it. Again, I've seen tire fires that have been stacked very tall and very thick. It takes a long time to get down to the bottom of that fuel, because there's so much stuff there to get through.

STEVE DANIELS: Yeah. Rob Marshall is the pilot in Chopper 11. Rob, we appreciate you sharing your observations from the air. Brian, our cameraman in Chopper 11. We appreciate Brian's help as well as we're covering the breaking news in the southern part of Raleigh. This is right off Garner Road just South of I-40. That plume of smoke from this scrapyard is flowing toward the north, toward downtown Raleigh. I know a lot of you were concerned about the smoke you're seeing in that part of Wake County and around downtown Raleigh. This is it, this scrapyard. You can see the flames still there, still visible from Chopper 11, so no telling how long it'll take to knock this fire out, but it is obviously contained. There are no other structures we need to worry about, but it could be a source of smoke over the city of Raleigh for quite some time in the evening ahead.

It's also important to note that Garner Road is closed there just South of I-40. We wanted to bring this to you live from the breaking news center as it's happening, the breaking news in Wake County. We'll continue covering it through the evening here on Eyewitness News. Have the latest here on abc11.com and on Eyewitness News tonight at 11:00. We'll see you soon.