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Wind helps confine salvage yard fire
By BILL COATS
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 5, 2000
CARROLLWOOD -- A brush fire spread through an auto salvage yard Thursday afternoon, burning cars and occupying two dozen firefighters for more than an hour.
No one was hurt, thanks partly to a wind that pushed the fire west into the salvage yard. If the flames had blown south or southwest, they quickly would have reached a row of homes along 145th Avenue. About 150 feet east were the southbound lanes of Interstate 275.
"If it had been going to the interstate, that's when you'd have had some complications," said Chip Branham, battalion chief with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. "It did bring the interstate to a halt out there for a few minutes."
Branham said a customer had visited that corner of the salvage yard shortly before the fire started around 1:45 p.m. "My guess would be a dropped cigarette," he said.
"It didn't start in the cars," said Alan Kempton, owner of Kempton's U-Pull-It. "It started in the weeds back there in the corner, past where the cars are. It spread to some tires then spread to the cars."
Nearly 20 of Kempton's 500 cars were burned.
"The only explosions were tires blowing up, shocks blowing up, that sort of stuff," said Sonny Glass, acting captain at the Fire Department's Station 14.
But Kempton and neighbors suspected the vehicles' old, vaporous gasoline tanks.
"It was tires, but it was gas tanks, too," said Fate Rigsby, a retired mechanic who lives three doors down 145th Avenue from the fire. "You could hear them blowing. You could see flames going sky high. Thank God for the fire department."
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