May 23, 2023

South Auckland fire: Scrap metal yard blaze fills air with toxic smoke, all trains suspended

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Trains have been stopped in their tracks due to the scrap yard blaze in South Auckland this morning.

The Auckland Train Control centre, based at Westfield near Favona, has been evacuated. Auckland Transport said all trains across the city had been stopped in their tracks until further notice.

Earlier, a toxic smoke alert was issued as the pile of scrap car parts burned in Favona.

More than a dozen fire crews were working to get the fire under control on James Fletcher Drive in Favona which was reported to emergency services at midnight.

Speaking from the scene just before 5am, Fire and Emergency Waitemata assistant area commander Garry Lane said they responded to the third alarm fire where there were a number of cars used as scrap ready to be recycled within a large pile on fire.

The pile was approximately 35m by 35m.

"We have 14 fire trucks and approximately 40 firefighters at the scene," Lane said.

"So our plan is in liaison with our management we are separating the piles out to make them smaller to be able to extinguish them quickly.

"It is a really big pile, 10m high."

Lane said crews were working from aerial appliances and ladder trucks.

"We have got a number of hoses out as well."

A Fire and Emergency alert at 6am advised nearby residents to close all doors and windows.

Plumes of black smoke have filled the air over the street.

A FENZ spokesperson said the fire had been contained to the scrap metal pile but it would be burning for some time.

"The smoke plume is significant and is likely to remain that way throughout the day.

"There are concerns the smoke from the fire is toxic and may affect people in the area. Auckland City Council environmental and pollution officers are also in attendance at the fire."

FENZ said on arrival firefighters found a 70 by 70 metres,10 metres high pile of scrap metal on fire.

"Up to 30 trucks and support vehicles have attended the incident throughout this morning."

A resident said part of the road had been closed and detours were in place.

Many residents reported on social media groups they woke up to a very strong smell of burning plastic.

Jo Robertson lives around 8km away from the site of the fire in Favona.

Robertson told the Herald the smell of smoke was very strong even at her house.

"It woke us up," she said.

At about 2.30 am, she and her husband woke up to the smell of burning rubber.

"We went to all the rooms, around the house, and outside we couldn't find anything on fire. But the smell was very strong. I had to turn the air filter off."

Another resident who lives in Beachlands told the Herald the smoke had travelled up to her residential area.

"It's smokey and there is a stench of burning plastic," she said.

Some schools are closing early as the fire continues to ignite at the scrap metal yard.

King's College is expected to close for the day due to the smoke from the South Auckland fire.

Students will switch to online learning, the Herald understands.

Otahuhu College is open but is closing early at 2.30pm.

Principal Neil Watson said if the wind condition changes they would be reviewing the decision.

Southern Cross Campus School said there was concern about the toxic smoke from the fire but at this stage, the school would remain open with class windows remaining closed until further notice.

"We will continue to monitor this situation closely under the close direction of Emergency Management Services.

"The Samoan Language Activities scheduled this morning will be cancelled and all Years 1-13 students will move directly to the classrooms.

"We ask that all students wear masks to school. Staff will issue masks to students at the gate.

"We will keep families updated as we receive further information."

Koru School said they were open but "we can smell the smoke on the streets and in our community, if you have any concerns please do what you feel is best to keep your children safe".

"Also, please remember that school finishes at 12.30pm today."

Mangere East Primary School said it would remain open today as there was a slight smell of smoke and the plume did not seem to be headed in their direction

"We can see the plume of smoke from the top of our Phoenix building and it doesn't seem to be coming our way. There is a slight smell. Therefore we will be open today and will keep children inside as needed."

Bus services along the road had been detoured as well, Auckland Transport said.

James Fletcher Drive has been closed between Beach Rd and Tui St.

Bus route 324 services will be detoured until further notice. The 05 bus stops between Savill Dr and Walmsley Rd are affected.

Due to building fire, James Fletcher Dr is closed between Beach Rd and Tui Street.Bus route 324 services will be detoured until further notice.05 bus stops between Savill Dr and Walmsley Rd are impacted: Stop 6991, 6609, 2412, 6989, 6984. Expect delays. Updates to follow.

A Fire and Emergency spokesperson said crews were working to turn over and put water on the burning materials.

"No buildings are affected, and there are no reports of injuries."

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