MONONGAHELA – More than 300 cars were destroyed in a massive fire that broke out at a Monongahela salvage yard Friday afternoon.
Seven fire departments were called to Pitt-Mon Auto Salvage on Stockdale Avenue in the Stoggletown section of Monongahela to battle the blaze.
Monongahela fire Chief Frank Hnatik said the fire began shortly after 4 p.m. when a spark from a cutting torch an employee was using ignited a nearby car. The fire quickly spread to surrounding vehicles. Huge plumes of thick, black smoke could be seen for several miles as flames engulfed vehicles.
“It was pretty windy out. Initially, we had four or five vehicles involved, but once the wind kicked it off, it went straight down the rows,” said Hnatik.
Hot embers also started a brush fire near the railroad tracks adjacent to the salvage yard, and Hnatik said firefighters worked to prevent the blaze from spreading to another salvage yard above the tracks.
“If it got up there, we were going to have big problems,” Hnatik said.
Monongahela firefighters were assisted by firefighters from New Eagle, Gallatin-Sunnyside, Springside, Fallowfield and Carroll townships and Bentleyville.
Hnatik said the salvage yard’s location, the intense heat and exploding tires made it diffficult to fight the fire.
“It was very tight. It was very hard to get equipment situated,” Hnatik said. “It was the worst vehicle fire I’ve ever dealt with.”
Norfolk Southern shut down train traffic in the area because fire hoses and equipment crossed the railroad tracks.
The fire has been ruled accidental, and no injuries were reported.
The yard’s owner was not available for comment Friday night.