Scrap Metal Fire in Tacoma: Battery-Related

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Recycling Today has been bottoming out on what caused the fire in a scrap metal yard in Tacoma, Washington. The scrap metal fire at the Simon Metals Yard broke out at around 2 a.m. on Monday September 17, 2018. Nobody was hurt, although the event does highlight how dangerous a lithium battery carelessly tossed in the garbage can become.

Lithium-Ion Battery Likely Caused Scrap Metal Fire

Simon Metals has two scrap yards in Washington with a total of 72 employees. The Tacoma yard is around 7.5 acres. A large load of consumer scrap iron arrived at the facility the previous Friday according to the president of Simon Metals. They added it to a growing 3,000-pound tin pile.

Paul Olsen says the load likely included a lithium-ion battery. “People are unaware of these batteries and are getting them into the shredding stream,” he says. “Being it was a weekend and the load came late Friday, the guys sorted the best they could. But they missed one [lithium-ion battery]. It got in a pile, made some heat,” and we had a scrap metal fire three days later.

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Simon Metals and Tacoma Firefighters Combine Efforts

Company employees teamed with Tacoma emergency responders to tackle the blaze that took nine hours to contain and extinguish. They used seven fire engines and four Simon Metals cranes to extinguish the flames and dampen down the debris.

“We’re also a Superfund site,” Simon Metals president Paul Olsen told Recycling Today. “So we had to make sure we had zero discharge and the Washington State Department of Ecology was there helping. Overall, the fire department was superb to work with on this, so props to the city of Tacoma fire department.”

There were no injuries or equipment losses, Paul Olsen confirmed. “The scrap metal fire only cost … about $95,000 to $115,000 in losses so it wasn’t catastrophic”. So much could have been avoided if someone we will never know, had not made a mistake with a used lithium-ion battery and caused a scrap metal fire.


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