Several others were treated on the scene of the fire that started around 3 p.m. at Brothers Auto Salvage.
Washington County Sheriff Zach Jacobsen said it’s not known yet what may have caused the fire to ignite, but warm weather conditions, along with gusty winds and leaves on the ground may have played a role.
Jacobsen said that five firefighters (four men and one woman) were sent to Washington County Memorial Hospital for heat-related illnesses. Those firefighters were said to be in stable condition.
“Some had smoke inhalation, but most of them were heat-related injuries or heat-related illnesses due to the amount of fire they’ve been fighting today and they are all fatigued,” said Jacobsen.
Jacobsen said the road is a narrow private gravel road where the salvaged cars are stored.
The sheriff said initially the call came in for a car fire, but when the fire department arrived, crews saw that multiple cars were involved, which later spread to a large pile of scrap vehicles.
“The fact that a vehicle in itself is combustible and all the combustibles with it, if they (salvage yard worker) were cutting the vehicle apart, that could’ve played a role in this,” Jacobsen said. “The fact that the leaves and everything else with it is dry, it makes for a tinder box. It’s really quick to explode, which is exactly what happened.”
Jacobsen said that even though the location isn’t necessarily in a rural area, the water supply is limited and quite a drive for the fire trucks to bring supply from other parts of town.
Jacobsen said that the tanker task force from St. Francis and Jefferson counties both assisted during the operation.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.