Cars scorched in salvage yard after brush fire gets out of control

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

A small brush fire whipped by the wind quickly turned into a mini-inferno fueled by tires and plastic, creating a plume of black smoke visible for miles Saturday afternoon.

Dozens of cars in a salvage yard were quickly turned into charred metal skeletons.

Several fire departments responded to Gordon’s Used Parts & Cars, 610 China Grove Road, shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday.

Firefighters donned breathing apparatus to wade into the smoke that covered the area and drew hundreds of motorists to the area trying to find out what was burning.

Traffic became so heavy that it clogged China Grove Road, making it difficult for firetrucks and tankers to get to the scene.

“Smoke draws people,” said Bostian Heights Chief Mike Zimmerman. “We had a tremendous amount of traffic. Trucks couldn’t get to the call.”

The fire was visible from Enochville to N.C. 150 west of Salisbury.

Zimmerman said the fire started when wind apparently got in a brush fire on neighboring property. Terry Caudle, who leases pastureland from Brian Tadlock, was burning brush when the wind shifted and blew the fire into the adjacent field of cars.

Zimmerman said a total of 56 cars were burned.

A Gordon’s employee said the cars destroyed were the company’s import line.

Bostian Heights got the initial call as a brush or grass fire and responded with the brush truck.

“We had everything burning. We weren’t sure which way it was going,” said Zimmerman. They immediately called for additional equipment.

Firefighters were able to stop the spread of the fire in a gully, keeping it from advancing up a hill to buildings and a huge pile of tires.

One look at the pile of tires reminded Zimmerman of the tire dump fires in the 1980s.

Firetrucks were stationed near the tires to keep the fire at bay.

Firefighters used everything available, including the county’s foam truck, spreading a hundred gallons or more.

Landis tankers hauled water from a nearby water point at Corriher’s pond. It took more than 23,000 gallons of water in addition to the foam to smother the fire.

Bostian Heights firefighters received assistance from Landis, Mount Mitchell, Locke, China Grove and the Rowan Rescue Squad, which refilled firefighters’ air packs.

“The smoke was toxic. We didn’t want the guys in there without the breathing apparatus,” said Zimmerman.

Firefighters remained on the scene Saturday evening making sure that the fire did not rekindle.

Zimmerman said they made every effort to get the fire out and get out of the salvage yard before dark.

“A junkyard at night is a dangerous place,” the fire chief said.

County Fire Marshal Tom Murphy, who also responded the scene, said no estimate of damage was available. Murphy commended the firefighters for quickly getting the fire under control.

Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or jburchette@