Hillsborough firefighters blame spontaneous combustion for scrap metal blaze near Port Tampa

Hillsborough County fire investigators blame spontaneous combustion for a scrap metal fire at a recycling facility on Port Sutton Road that burned out of control for nine hours Friday near the Port of Tampa.

“It’s a surprise, said Trademark Metals Recycling President Brad Ford. “We work extremely diligently with the Hillsborough fire department and other fire departments in the regions in which we operate to have emergency action plans.”

The Trademark fire is the second to break out at the facility since September 11 and the fifth at the site since 2007.

Ford says his company took ownership in 2014.

“Since then, we’ve done a lot to mitigate fire risk there,” Ford said.

Trademark has thermal sensors that can detect a fire in scrap piles before smoke or flames become visible. Ford insists his crew work diligently to remove oil, gas and other hazardous materials from junk cars before they are processed into scrap metal and was at a loss to explain what caused materials to spontaneously combust Friday.

Hillsborough fire officials say the company doesn’t have a checkered history of inspections but said that agency does not regulate scrap heap conditions, just the buildings. Recent inspections uncovered only a few minor violations that were later corrected.

In October 2013, dozens of firefighters battled another scrap metal blaze at a Trademark facility in Opa Locka that burned 300 junked vehicles.  Friday’s fire east of Tampa could be seen for many miles around, but did not cause any injuries.

Hillsborough County does have an ordinance enabling the county to recover costs during hazardous materials fires, but are a long way from determining if that applies in Friday’s two alarm blaze.

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