Investigators believe blaze broke out when a spark from the friction created by the equipment ignited some sort of flammable vapor
Some 50 vehicles were destroyed last weekend in a fire at SA Recycling in Santa Maria. Investigators believe the blaze started in a vehicle-crushing machine. (Andrew Klein photo)
A fire last weekend at a Santa Maria metal recycling business apparently started inside vehicle-compacting equipment, according to the Santa Maria Fire Department.
The blaze at SA Recycling, 1599 W. Betteravia Road, was reported at about 7 a.m. Saturday, with a full structure-fire response initiated.
Flames destroyed some 50 vehicles along with the crushing equipment, while sending a huge column of black smoke into the sky.
An employee witnessed the start of the fire, which sparked inside the compacting equipment while it was crashing a vehicle, Fire Marshal Darrell Delgado said.
Delgado said investigators believe a spark from the friction created by the operating equipment ignited some sort of vapor — gasoline, transmission fluid or hydraulic fluid.
Firefighting crews at the scene struggled to extinguish the blaze more quickly due to the lack of available water resource, requiring a lengthy extension of hose from the intersection of Betteravia and A Street.
Investigators tried to research why the site, formerly in Santa Barbara County jurisdiction before being annexed to the city, never installed fire protection, but did not determine the reason it wasn’t put in place more than a decade ago.
It’s not clear how much damage the fire caused, with some estimates putting the crushing equipment value $1 million and others estimating the price tag at $100,000.
A section of Betteravia Road was closed for some time while crews battled the blaze and conducted mop-up operations.
Personnel from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and Cal Fire assisted the local crews at the site and by staffing city fire stations.
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