MIDLOTHIAN – Fire fighters responded to a fire at 1:27 a.m. Wednesday at Gardau Ameristeel, located in the 300 block of Ward Road.

Formerly Chaparral Steel, the business cuts up old cars to salvage parts.  The vehicles are run through a shredder called a hammer mill, which separates the metal from non-metal scrap onto two conveyor belts. The non-metal scrap, including foam, plastic and rubber, is called “fluff” and sent to a pile.

Deputy Chief Tom Montgomery said employees heard an explosion and the conveyor belts began transporting hot material to both the metal and fluff piles.

“There was a pretty good fire going in the (fluff) pile and a secondary fire was caused when the conveyor transported the metal in the other direction,” Montgomery said. “There was minor damage to the plant equipment.”

Due to the location of the fire, Midlothian FD trucks could not get close to the flames.

“The Gardau employees uncovered the hot material with large front-end loaders and moved it to gondola railcars,” Montgomery said. “That allowed us to wash down the material as it was moved.”

The crews hauled out about six railcars full of scrap but will be able to salvage most of the material, he said, noting no injuries were reported.

The Ovilla Fire Department provided a water tank to support the Midlothian fire trucks, since there is no usable water supply nearby. The Cedar Hill Fire Department provided an ambulance on standby and an aerial apparatus that could not be used due to positioning problems, Montgomery said.

The cause of the fire had not been determined as of press time.

E-mail Bitty at bitty.reilly@wninews.com