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Firefighters battle blaze at Midlothian scrap yard

Three acres of scrapped vehicles were burning Tuesday morning south of Midlothian, but firefighters ringing the blaze plan to let it burn itself out, a fire department official said.

Six fire departments from surrounding communities were at the scene helping to contain the flames at the scrap metal yard operated by Gerdau Ameristeel, said Dale McCaskill, deputy chief of the Midlothian Fire Department.

Firefighters were called at 8:40 p.m. Monday, to the site at 300 Ward Road, which converts junk cars into usable steel, McCaskill said. Images of a large swath of flames and smoke were captured by KXAS Channel 5's helicopter crew.

McCaskill did not know on Tuesday how the fire got started, but the scrapped cars provided a lot of flammable material from seat padding and upholstery, tires, plastics and residues from fuel and lubricants.

"It will probably burn awhile longer," McCaskill said. "It's like a hay fire; if you can't remove the fuel, you just have to let it burn itself out."

Officials for Gerdau Ameristeel could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.

The company, based in Tampa, Fla., is "the fourth largest overall steel company and the second largest minimill steel producer in North America," according to its Web site.

It operates steel mills and manufactures rebar, wire and products for the rail industry, the Web site reported.

The Midlothian site, formerly operated by Chaparral Steel, is part of Gerdau Ameristeel's recycling division.

It processes more than "600,000 tons of obsolete cars and light scrap, generating over 175,000 tons of shredder residue every year," according to the Web site.