Police investigate massive fire that engulfed 1,500 cars in scrap yard north of Grafton

Police are appealing for information after a massive blaze involving 1,500 cars in a scrap yard at Trenayr, north of Grafton.

The fire was brought under control by 6.12am on Wednesday, but was still smouldering throughout the morning.

The rural fire service (RFS) was initially called to the scene on Tuesday evening. About 30 cars were alight by 6.15pm, sending a billowing black smoke plume skywards. The fire was contained about 9pm but had spread to about 1,500 vehicles within the yard, New South Wales police said.

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Fire and Rescue NSW warned the plume may settle in the local area and issued advice to residents to stay indoors overnight, as well as to close all windows, doors and vents, and to turn their air-conditioning devices off.

Crews have been working with earth-moving machinery to control the fire.

NSW police said officers from the Coffs-Clarence police district had begun an investigation into the cause of the fire, which is being treated as suspicious and are appealing for information.

“Police would like to speak with four males, believed to have been travelling in a white dual cab utility on Trenayr Road, Trenayr, about 5.30pm yesterday,” they said.

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A RFS spokesperson said excavators have been used to reach hotspots still in need of cooling within the yard, where vehicles were stacked eight to 10 cars high.

The spokesperson said the setup of the wrecking yard contained a number of piles of cars, and the fire was contained to a single pile which had a significant number of cars within it.

The district manager of the RFS, Stuart Watts, estimated the fire was 90% contained on Wednesday morning with “a couple of pockets still smouldering, deep within the stack of cars”.

“There’s a number of burnt shells of vehicles stacked on top of each other at the location,” he said. “It’s still smouldering within, it’s pretty hard to get to the seat of the fire.

“There’s always the chance of a flare-up during the day as the water we are applying to the cars dries out.”

Watts said the cause of the fire has not yet been established.

“We have had similar sorts of fires before but they’re generally because a bushfire had moved into large areas where wrecks are stored,” he said. “So this one’s a little bit unusual as the fire started on the premises.”

Watts said securing adequate water supply due to the rural location of the fire was a challenge, with bulk water carriers needed to be brought in from the Clarence Valley as well as adjoining rural fire districts. Private water carts will be hired later today to ensure a reliable water supply.

About 25 firefighters in six trucks assisted, according to the spokesperson, with fire rescue, ambulance and police all also on scene.

The Environment Protection Authority arrived later in the evening, according to the spokesperson.

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