S&S Salvage is a family-owned recycling and metal scrapping business. The owner tells Eyewitness News they run the risk of small fires in their line of work every day. But she says what happened Wednesday morning was a first.
When Tammy Smith left for work it seemed like an average day. Until her morning commute was interrupted. "They called and said we gotta fire going on here and when I got here it was blazing," says Smith.
The Providence Fire Department initially responded to the call, but quickly discovered they couldn't fight the blaze alone. "Shortly after we pulled out to the station we knew we had a big fire out here," says Assistant Fire Chief William Lantrip.
"We noticed a heavy, heavy black smoke as we were just exiting town actually and we immediately called for help from other departments," Lantrip adds, "We were sure proud to see them when they got here."
Officials say the fire started when a van caught fire in the scrap metal yard. "As they were unloading the van, the van erupted into flames and as [a worker] was going to get it out of the way of the debris -- it ended up in the debris," says Lantrip. At this time it's unknown what caused the van to ignite.
Smith says the business has dealt with small fires, but never anything quite like this. "We use cutting torches and things like that. So there's always the chance of a small fire being around. That's why everything here has fire extinguishers on it and, you know, it's just always a possibility. But we've never had something to say, to that magnitude," says Smith. "Fire extinguishers couldn't do anything for that."
At this time Smith isn't sure how much money her family business lost in the fire, but she says the amount will be significant. "The fire was on our scrap pile where the automobiles were at. And of course they're gonna weigh a lot less when we sell them than when we bought them. So when we sell them we've basically lost over half our weight," says Smith. "We figure at least half of the weight is gone. Cause you can't even tell they're automobiles."
She says the business will count its losses, then sell what it can. Officials say it took fire crews around three hours to put out the fire.