Fire lights up sky after explosion at local metal-recycling plant

By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer

WALTON HILLS, Ohio (AP) - A fire Friday at a building containing a metals recycling company and truck repair shop triggered explosions and evacuations, but there were no serious injuries, authorities said.

The fire started about 9 a.m. at Ohio Briquetting Co., which recycles scrap metals, said Kara Allison, a spokeswoman with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Bencin Trucking Inc., which owns 55 to 60 vehicles, is in the same building.

The fire was under control about two hours after it occurred.

Walton Hills Mayor Marlene Anielski said 11 communities responded to the fire and explosions in the Cleveland suburb of about 2,400 people.

Lisa Brown, 33, of Oakwood, said she felt the explosions while watching television at home about two blocks away. She said the house was shaking "like it was under attack."

"It started as just a slight fire coming through the walls and then massive explosions started to occur," said T.J. Caporale, a worker at nearby Clopay Building Projects.

Caporale said the heat from the explosions could be felt across the street and there was a series of white flashes.

Allison said the explosions and flashes were from firefighters' water hitting magnesium, which was one of the metals processed at the briquetting company.

Authorities ordered a nearby Fuel Mart gas station to shut off its pumps and be evacuated. Jean Aungst, assistant manager of the station, said she counted at least eight explosions.

Allison said the EPA did not know the extent of any damage. She said the primary environmental concern was the smoke but that the agency also was concerned about possible titanium and magnesium runoff from the water.

Bencin had 15 employees at work Friday morning. Ohio Briquetting had three people at work.

Ron Clarin, 36, of Parma, drives trucks for Bencin. He said he was repairing a truck Friday morning when three employees of OBC ran out of the building without saying anything.

"The next thing you know, there was an explosion and there were flames and smoke above my head," said Clarin who had minor burns to his face.

Oakwood Fire Chief Jack Maji said there was a fire at the same location about two years ago.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)