SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - More than 120 firefighters battled a massive fire at a salvage yard in East Spencer on Wednesday.
David Morris of the Salisbury Fire Department said it was the equivalent of a five-alarm fire.
The fire broke out before 11:30 a.m. at the Holmes Iron & Metal salvage yard in the 600 block of North Long Street in East Spencer. Sources at the scene told WBTV the fire started soon after a man took a van to scrap at the salvage yard.
The sources said that van somehow caught fire and those flames spread to other vehicles.
"We all grabbed buckets of water, fire extinguishers to try to put it out, but by that time it was out of our control," said Holmes worker K. J. Cain.
Officials said that one firefighter was cut on the forearm while helping remove water from a tanker. That firefighter's name and the extent of their injuries have not been released.
One other firefighter was treated at the scene for heat exhaustion.
"If we don't keep the firefighters safe, we're not going to be able to control the situation," said Rowan Emergency Services Director Chris Soliz. "We've worked really hard with the Red Cross, and they've been great in establishing food and water, and our local rescue squad has established a rehab area."
With water pressure being an issue in East Spencer, tankers from more than a dozen fire departments were filling up with Salisbury city water and taking it to the scene.
"Obviously there is a massive amount of water needed for this type of incident," said Morris. "We did utilize the municipal water system and tanker shuttles for additional water. At this time I can say we are applying 3000-4000 gallons of water a minute to this fire."
Smoke could be seen for miles as multiple fire departments responded to the blaze, with one witness describing it as looking like a volcano.
Lots of loud pops were reported as piles of cars burned.
"It's amazing," said Daniel Matangira, the son-in-law of the salvage yard owner. "When you mix electrical and the fire, all the gas tanks that are there with the cars, the refrigerators, insulation that is there, that's really a cause for disaster."
According to Rowan County Emergency Services, the only hazard to the public was from the smoke. Anyone in the area was asked to shelter in place and close their doors and windows.
Officials say they are unable to determine an exact cause of the fire due to the extensive damage.
A shelter was also being set up for anyone lost power. That power outage was reported from Long Street to parts of East Spencer and Spencer, officials said.
The American Red Cross opened a shelter for families evacuating homes, residents without power or those directed not to open windows due to heavy smoke.
The shelter address is: Salisbury YMCA, 828 West Jake Alexander Boulevard, Salisbury, NC, 28147.