Fire at West Oakland recycling facility puts out huge plume of smoke

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The large fire at a West Oakland scrap metal plant is under investigation, but appears to be accidental according to the Oakland Fire Department. It started while crews at Schnitzer Steel were processing metal. Schnitzer employees watched for fire flare-ups overnight Saturday following the fire.

"It's not healthy at all. You can see it's still dark. That's not good at all," said West Oakland resident Chidi Ubochi as he watched the fire from a nearby overpass.

Others could see the black smoke plume from as far away as Marin. Many are concerned about the toxic nature of the material Schnitzer recycles scrap metal.

"Which is not good when it's lit up for us to be breathing in so it's bad for kids and stuff and I got kids too so I worry for their safety and their health," said Ubochi.

The fire started around four in the evening Saturday as crews processed scrap.

"This is a regular day of production for us again we're determining the root cause of this particular fire," said Adam Simons with Schnitzer Steel.

"The residue on the metal is probably what started it," said Battalion Chief Tracey Chin, Oakland Fire Department.

The pile of debris was about an acre in size and firefighters estimate half of it was on fire.

Apryl Haynes watched from a distance and witnessed explosions coming from the burning scrap pile.

"It sounded more like boom and then we saw white smoke and then followed by a real thick dark grey cloud," said Haynes, a West Oakland resident.

"Within the fire we did have some explosions and shrapnel that kind of went up into the air," said Battalion Chief Chin.

Nearby agencies brought in water tankers and boats to help douse the flames. After about two hours of fighting firefighters got it under control. Representatives from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District responded and took a report. They did not have any readings to share on scene regarding the air quality. ABC 7 has reached out to the District for an update on the air quality related to the fire.

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