It was a situation that residents of north Waxahachie have grown all-too-familiar with over the last six years: The smell of smoke and the sounds of sirens coming from a scrap metal recycling facility nearby.
A six-alarm fire that broke out at the recycling plant early Wednesday morning, with a large plume of smoke stretching for miles, was finally extinguished by that evening. The thick, acrid smoke forced cancellation of classes at Life Schools Waxahachie for the day.
The fire broke out around 4 a.m. at Oak Cliff Metal Recycling, located west of Interstate 35E near Butcher Road at 500 Brown Industrial Road. No injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire has not been determined.
Authorities said because there are no fire hydrants on the property, tanker trucks had to be used to fight the conflagration.
In a Waxahachie Fire-Rescue post on Facebook, the department said that numerous units were on site, as well as resources from several neighboring agencies: Ennis, Ovilla, Maypearl, Emergency Services District 6 and Forreston. Firefighters from Midlothian and Red Oak were also providing mutual aid, covering calls at two Waxahachie Fire stations.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency both conducted air quality testing in the area of the fire. “The TCEQ conducted ground level tests, and the EPA conducted tests via airplane directly in the plume and both tests detected no traces of chemicals,” Waxahachie Fire-Rescue said.
The department said crews were able to make progress on the fire through excavation and other methods to reach areas they hadn’t been able to get to since it started.
According to its website, Oak Cliff Recycling processes steel, rebar, iron stainless, aluminum, brass, motors, aluminum, copper and other ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
Blown by due-westerly winds, the smoke emanating from the fire stretched over Interstate 35E and caused Life School, located on the eastern end of Butcher Road, to close for the day. Classes resumed on Thursday, but the final exam schedule had to be adjusted because the school was scheduled for early release on both Thursday and Friday.
Wednesday’s fire is the fourth at the facility in the last six years, and the fifth incident at the plant involving first responders.
A similar large fire broke out at the same facility in August 2013, resulting in requests for numerous tankers from neighboring departments. That fire took several days to fully extinguish.
At the time, Waxahachie Fire Chief Ricky Boyd said piles of shredded recycled materials on the property ignited and did damage the equipment from radiant heat, though no buildings were damaged.
In July 2014, a reported pipe explosion at the plant resulted in one injury. A worker was airlifted to an area hospital. One month later, another fire at the plant resulted in an injury to a Waxahachie firefighter. And in January 2015, a fire broke out in a pile of ground-up metal but was put out fairly quickly.