By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more
Forum sponsored by:
Forum sponsored by Allendale Jan 24th

Scrap Metal Fire

All Topics | Latest Posts

Search for:  in Thread Title in  
SillyOldDuffer05/10/2020 14:11:29
6447 forum posts
1421 photos

Local news reporting 20,000 tons of scrap metal on fire in Avonmouth and they're having trouble putting it out!

BBC Pictures here.

Cause unknown, so we can have fun guessing what's on fire, and what ignited it.

My suggestion: magnesium swarf, plenty of air in the heap, and it got hot enough to ignite Aluminium and maybe steel... Maybe lightning started it?

I've read Magnesium is the most machinable of all metals. Shame it ignites at 473℃ and explodes when you try put the fire out with water!


Oldiron05/10/2020 14:44:21
559 forum posts
22 photos

Just saw this online. My first thoughts were that oil & aluminium most likely scenario. Going to be difficult to put out. Could burn for a long time.


old mart05/10/2020 15:20:42
2201 forum posts
164 photos

It's a mystery to me exactly what is burning. If oil was a component, I would expect the smoke to be black. If there was a lot of plastic in the pile, the smoke would be black also. Magnesium does emit white smoke, but the quantities of it relative to the more common metals is small and those piles of metal would have been separated magnetically before piling up prior to being loaded into ships. Putting water on burning magnesium is not the correct way to control it, but fire services will have extremely limited options with such a large fire.

Tim Rowe 105/10/2020 15:34:12
10 forum posts

Looks to me like an exothermic reaction has started. There is a lot of oxygen tied up in rusty iron or steel. Introduce a reactive metal such as aluminium which could still be stuck to ferrous material even after magnetic separation and you have a process akin to Thermite.
Get the steel hot enough and even that will "burn" as can easily be seen in oxy-gas cutting processes.

Tim R

old mart05/10/2020 15:40:32
2201 forum posts
164 photos

You may well have the answer there, Tim, iron rust and aluminium are a bad mix, that is why aluminium is banned from coal mines.

JA05/10/2020 15:48:59
1007 forum posts
54 photos

I think there was a scrap metal fire a few years ago in Swindon that burnt for weeks. Burning mixed metals must be very difficult to deal with. Water on most burning metals does not help.

I guess they will try to move as much metal as possible and just let the rest burn. The M4 & 5 are not too busy at this time of year.


Other metals have thermite reactions such as aluminium and copper (oxide).

Edited By JA on 05/10/2020 15:51:10

pgk pgk05/10/2020 16:13:59
1971 forum posts
288 photos

no-one mentioned titanium yet..local aerospace and RR??
But my vote still goes to ally and rust


JA05/10/2020 16:52:04
1007 forum posts
54 photos

Unlikely to be titanium since any such scrap was kept separate and returned directly to the refiners (where I worked, any way). I only managed to get hold of titanium once, little piece of sheet 1" x 2".

The fire is at the Sims Metal Management depot. According to their web site they are a long established international company dealing in general waste metal, both ferrous and non-ferrous. Their head offices are in Australia. Not a fly by night outfit.


Comment deleted.

Edited By JA on 05/10/2020 16:54:30

Edited By JA on 05/10/2020 16:55:02

Howard Lewis05/10/2020 17:00:28
3765 forum posts
3 photos

You may have trouble setting a steel RSJ non fire, but steel swarf will burn well, small local mass with plenty of room for oxygen! Probably with some oil mas well!

Add some magnesium or Aluminium to the mix and off we go!

Should be interesting to know What burned, How much, For How long, and how it started


Michael Gilligan05/10/2020 17:43:20
16632 forum posts
724 photos

Interesting ... Sims also had a serious fire in Redditch on 09-January : **LINK**

... I wonder what charges there might have been to recycling protocols



Edit :

Edited By Michael Gilligan on 05/10/2020 17:51:39

Mark Rand05/10/2020 22:25:28
927 forum posts
6 photos

I guess at the end of it, they can just ship the remains to Port Talbot to be turned back into steel.

Steviegtr05/10/2020 23:31:15
1636 forum posts
196 photos

I hope it is not Titanium, i have just bought some for making rings.


Hopper06/10/2020 02:19:27
4876 forum posts
106 photos

When you look at the pictures of the fire, the mountain of scrap metal is like most these days: consists mostly of domestic appliances and car bodies and parts, all of which are painted and have various bits of plastic attached and in the case of fridges, may still contain some oil in the compressor. Paint burns quite well, as does plastic of course.

In this post-industrial era the chances of the pile containing burnable amounts of swarf, magnesium or even RSJs etc are slim.


Edited By Hopper on 06/10/2020 02:27:07

ChrisH06/10/2020 09:29:11
891 forum posts
29 photos

Steel will burn. On some water-tube boilers, if fired and water levels allowed to drop, the tube can ignite and develop what is known as a hydrogen fire. Trying to put that out with water is doomed to failure, as the water turns back into component parts hydrogen and oxygen gases and away it goes. Saw the results of a hydrogen fire on a little water tube boiler on a ship I joined once - not a pretty sight. Boiler had to be replaced, wasn't worth even considering to repair!  More common on dirty superheaters when overheated with a lack of steam flow through them.

Edited By ChrisH on 06/10/2020 09:30:54

Edited By ChrisH on 06/10/2020 10:00:32

not done it yet06/10/2020 09:45:21
5130 forum posts
20 photos

Steel will burn (think cutting steel with oxy-gas) but at a high temperature and with a plentiful supply of oxygen or very large surface area (steel wool). Aluminium will burn - think here of HMS Sheffield in 1982. Some metals will burn just by pouring water over them 🙂 - well not quite but the evolved hydrogen gas will.

HOWARDT06/10/2020 10:22:06
617 forum posts
15 photos

Why not call in the local airport fire service, they have equipment to extinguish metal fires.

JA06/10/2020 13:34:27
1007 forum posts
54 photos

I have just got back from Avonmouth. The fire appears to be out, no smoke.


Bazyle06/10/2020 13:45:56
5562 forum posts
207 photos

Forget the burning steel. As Hopper says it was washing machines and fridges. For years these have not had steel bodies just plasticised wood - very frustrating when you are looking for a nice sheet of steel and the fridges are full of expanded polystyrene. If they have thrown some weight lifting tackle in there is isn't cast iron any more either, just concrete sheethed in plastic.

old mart06/10/2020 13:49:10
2201 forum posts
164 photos

The latest I could find out is that the number of fire crews is being reduced, they have won the battle, good work.

ChrisB06/10/2020 18:02:10
561 forum posts
192 photos

Those mentioning titanium, I have yet to see a titanium metal fire after 20 years working with it. I find the probability of a scrap yard fire involving the said metal next to impossible.

All Topics | Latest Posts

Please login to post a reply.

Magazine Locator

Want the latest issue of Model Engineer or Model Engineers' Workshop? Use our magazine locator links to find your nearest stockist!

Find Model Engineer & Model Engineers' Workshop

Latest Forum Posts
Support Our Partners
Eccentric July 5 2018
Eccentric Engineering
Subscription Offer

Latest "For Sale" Ads
Latest "Wanted" Ads
Get In Touch!

Do you want to contact the Model Engineer and Model Engineers' Workshop team?

You can contact us by phone, mail or email about the magazines including becoming a contributor, submitting reader's letters or making queries about articles. You can also get in touch about this website, advertising or other general issues.

Click THIS LINK for full contact details.

For subscription issues please see THIS LINK.

Digital Back Issues

Social Media online

'Like' us on Facebook
Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter
 Twitter Logo

Pin us on Pinterest