Spate of destructive junkyard fires in Philadelphia 'certainly not normal', fire dept. says

Fire officials in Philadelphia still have no explanation as to why two junkyard fires that threatened the city's air quality sparked just days apart, but they admit that the occurrence is abnormal. 

"It's certainly not normal," said Philadelphia Deputy Fire Commissioner Jeffery Thompson. "It's something we're looking at, and we'll work with our partners at Licensing and Inspections to see if there’s anything we can do to make the fire code more robust."

Firefighters were called to Philly Auto Salvage and Parts last Friday for a multi-alarm fire that torched nearly two dozen scrap vehicles. An air quality alert was issued for nearby residents that advised them to remain inside to avoid breathing in potentially hazardous material, but tests later revealed no signs of toxins. 

Fire investigators have not reported what sparked the blaze. A review of Licensing and Inspections records shows several fire-safety related violations levied against Philly Auto Salvage and parts, including failure to mount fire extinguishers withing 75 ft of each other throughout the yard.

Other fines, according to records, involve failure to keep fire equipment access roads clear of obstructions. They company was also told to properly clean the ground of excess oil from a spill at the rear of the yard. 

When pressed for answers about the violations by FOX 29's Jeff Cole, a worker claimed they made the necessary corrections.

Less than a week later, firefighters in North Philadelphia were called to Martin Recycling Company for another junkyard fire that again prompted a brief warning to nearby residents about toxins in the air. 


Firefighters have not given an official cause of the fire, but Owner George Martinos said a gasoline spill caught fire an inflicted $50k worth of damages. Martinos said two weeks before the fire his company fix violations issued by License and Inspections. 

"[Scrap yards] need to make sure they follow all the L and I codes, monitor the fire code and make sure they follow all the rules," Deputy Fire Commissioner Thompson said.