HORSEHEADS | A fire ripped through a huge pile of junk cars Thursday evening at the Pick-A-Part salvage yard in Horseheads, sending a thick plume of black smoke billowing into the air that was visible for miles around.
The fire - which broke out around 6 p.m. - torched about 60 cars, estimated Don Fischer, chief of the Horseheads Town and Country Fire Department, which battled the blaze along with the Horseheads Village Fire Department.
Pick-A-Part is located on Sears Road off County Route 64, between the Best Buy/ Target and Southern Tier Crossing shopping plazas.
New York State Police and the Chemung County Sheriff’s Office shut down that stretch of County Route 64 during the incident.
The cars that burned were sitting on a scrap heap next to Pick-A-Part’s car crusher.
Fischer said employees had been using a torch to cut parts out of vehicles in the scrap heap early Thursday afternoon, and some smoldering embers likely ignited later and caught the whole pile on fire.
Onlookers who saw the fire when it first broke out described 100-foot-tall flames and loud pops from tires and gas tanks exploding. A large diesel tank near the scrap heap was moved to safety by a payloader with a forklift.
One by one, workers pulled charred, smoldering vehicles off the pile with forklifts,and firefighters doused them. It took a couple hours to completely extinguish.
The tank on Town and Country Fire Department’s pumper ran out of water, so firefighters ran about 2,000 feet of hose from a hydrant on County Route 64, Fischersaid.
There were no injuries.
The Elmira Heights Fire Department covered for Town and Country at the Chemung County Fairgrounds, which was hosting a monster truck show Thursday night.
Fischer said there’s occasionally a fire at Pick-A-Part, but Thursday’s was the biggesthe’d ever seen.
“Once in a while we’ll come over here for a car or two on fire, but not 60-plus cars,”Fischer said.