- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2003

Prince George’s County firefighters are investigating what set off a two-alarm blaze in a junkyard off Route 50 in Cheverly yesterday afternoon.

A 40-foot-high pile of scrap metal, refrigerators, tires and other trash at Smith’s Junkyard in the 2000 block of Kenilworth Avenue near Eastern Avenue caught fire shortly after 2 p.m., producing a massive smoke cloud that loomed over the area until early evening. The blaze caused an estimated $500,000 in damage.

“At a junkyard, the cause could be a number of things,” said Mark Brady, spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire Department. “Someone could have been welding or something like that, and with the leftover fuel in some of the junk vehicles, it can go up pretty quickly.”

No one was injured in the fire, and no nearby residential neighborhoods were evacuated, Mr. Brady said.

“The fire was pretty much under control early in the afternoon,” Mr. Brady said.

More than 75 firefighters and 30 firetrucks helped battle the blaze for hours. A dark, thick smoke cloud could be seen 10 miles away. It reached nearly 200 feet in the air and created a haze over a nearby stretch of Route 50 during last night’s rush hour.

The biggest priority is the safety of the firefighters, Mr. Brady said. The intense heat from the blaze, coupled with temperatures in the mid-90s, hindered firefighters as they tried to cool and contain it.

Environmental concerns also became a factor because of the large amount of water used.

“Due to the copious amount of water, we had to consider the possibility of runoff into the water supply,” Mr. Brady said. “We’ve got hazmat officials on the scene to help contain the contamination in case it happens.”

A similar fire broke out at the same location in July 2002. That fire destroyed two large cranes, worth $500,000 each, Mr. Brady said.

“This time, one of them was able to be saved,” Mr. Brady said. “But even with just one destroyed, it’s at least $500,000 worth of damage that’s been done.”

Mr. Brady said firefighters should have extinguished the fire by this morning. He said firefighters will try to put foam on the flames to smother them.

Cleanup operations could take days, Mr. Brady said.

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