OTAY MESA, San Diego — Rows of junked vehicles became engulfed in flames Wednesday afternoon at an Otay Mesa recycling center, sending a column of thick black smoke over southern San Diego and forcing road closures as ground and airborne crews battled the intense fire.
The blaze in the 6400 block of Datsun Street erupted for unknown reasons about 3:15 p.m., according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
By Wednesday evening, the fire continued to smolder and crews were using equipment to move materials around to extinguish the fire, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
As of Thursday morning, firefighters were still at the scene. At 11 a.m., SDFD's incident page for the fire indicated that a pile of scrap metal was still smoldering. The agency said no injuries were reported and no buildings were damaged but there was an estimated $150,000-worth of damage done to the contents of the junkyard.
Fire breaks out at an Otay Mesa junk yard in San Diego
Nearly 70 personnel, including a helicopter crew serving as spotters for their partners on the ground, fought the blaze through the late afternoon and into the early evening.
Such fires typically take considerable time to subdue due to the nature of the burning materials, including plastics, rubber, fuel and oil, SDFRD spokeswoman Monica Munoz said.
"These fires tend to be rather challenging because of the compact amount of items that are all crushed together and fact that metal gets very hot very quickly. It takes hours and hours to completely get a fire like this out because of the fact that there are so many things stacked up on top of each other," she said.
Officials asked the public to avoid the area if possible until firefighters get the smoldering under control and police reopen the affected roadways.