Fire at Coxheath scrapyard near Sydney burns hundreds of cars

Cape Breton firefighters say 60 vehicles were fully engulfed by flames in a pile of 500 cars at a scrapyard just outside Sydney, N.S. Tuesday night.

'All of a sudden I heard the cars exploding and then I knew we were in trouble'

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      Cape Breton firefighters say 60 vehicles were fully engulfed by flames in a pile of 500 cars at a scrapyard just outside Sydney, N.S. Tuesday night.

      More than 60 firefighters led by the Coxheath Volunteer Fire Department responded to the fire. 

      Reports of the fire came around 7:15 p.m. and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality said firefighters are expected remain on scene into the early hours of Wednesday morning.

      The CBC's Gary Mansfield reports there was no water supply on hand so fire crews brought in water trucks.

      A crane was at the scene to lift the vehicles out of the way, which were stacked several cars high. The fire was isolated to one area of the scrapyard and fire crews worked to keep it from spreading. 

      Officials estimate between 200 to 300 cars caught fire. (George Mortimer/CBC)

      Several roads leading to the scrapyard are closed, including the Sydport highway.

      People are being held back a significance distance from the field. 

      Flames above the trees

      Brenda Hawboldt, who lives on Keltic Drive near the scene of the fire, said she first saw smoke around 5 p.m. Initially she thought it was someone burning garbage.

      "All of a sudden I heard the cars exploding and then I knew we were in trouble," said Hawboldt. "We come running out to have a look because big smoke was blowing at the house so we were a little concerned it was coming the wrong way."

      Hawboldt says the smoke was very thick. She had a bag ready by the door in case she had to leave her home.

      "The flames were actually above the trees and I could see them from my house and I said, 'If it jumps that road, we're in trouble' because we're right on the other side."​

      Under control

      "It's a scrapyard, so they dump a lot of old cars and stuff into this spot so there's a lot of cars in here," said Hawboldt. "Apparently they're not empty. They're full of gas and fluids and that's why you keep hearing the cars exploding."

      Hawboldt says the fire crews have been working hard to stop the flames from spreading.

      ​"They'll be here a long time trying to take her down, but she's not going to travel anymore now."

      At least seven fire departments responded to the scene.

      Firefighters across Cape Breton have been called to a scrap yard where 200 to 300 vehicles are on fire. 0:25

      'Really scary looking'

      Steven Smith, who lives about two kilometres away from the fire on Bungalow Road, could see the smoke from his home.

      "We were looking into this massive black plume cloud, so it was pretty dramatic from our street," said Smith. "It was really scary looking."

      Smith managed to take a few pictures of the scene. He says he saw a fire truck driving back and forth from the Riverview Fire Department. Smith says now that it's dark, he can't see any flames.

      "I've seen a couple of people walking around, coming to and from their cars in the driveway and taking a look at it," he said.

      Coxheath is about a 10-minute drive from Sydney, N.S.

      With files from Preston Mulligan, Wendy Bergfeldt, George Mortimer, Dave Irish, Gary Mansfield