A large pile of crushed cars and scrap iron burned for about five hours Tuesday at a recycling yard on Riverside Street, said Portland fire officials.

The fire broke out at 3:15 p.m. at Schnitzer Northeast, at 568 Riverside St., in a pile of scrap metal that was 100 feet long, 50 feet wide and about 25 feet high, said Deputy Fire Chief Robert Thompson.

About half the pile was burning when firefighters arrived, Thompson said. Employees at the metal recycling company used their own crane to move away scrap that wasn’t burning, he said. After that, they used the crane to separate and flatten the burning pile to give firefighters access.

“The problem with those fires (at scrap yards) is that it burrows deep in the pile, and until we dig it out we can’t get at it,” said Thompson.

It took about 30 firefighters, and the use of a special foam-dispensing truck from the South Portland Fire Department, to put the fire out by about 8 p.m. They used 800 gallons of foam and over 100,000 gallons of water from on-site fire hydrants. A fire truck contains 500 gallons of water.

“This was a significant fire,” Thompson said. No one was injured and traffic on Riverside was not affected.

The cause of the fire was unknown and will be investigated, but Thompson said there was no reason to believe it was suspicious.

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