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Air quality a concern after Oakland scrap metal fire

Oakland Fire Department firefighters work the recycling yard fire in Oakland on Thursday. | Source: Oakland Fire Department via Bay City News

Firefighters on Thursday morning continued to squelch what's left of a fire at a Radius Recycling (formerly Schnitzer Steel Industries) facility in Oakland, a spokesman for the city's fire department said.

The fire broke out at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the facility at 1101 Embarcadero West, sending up plumes of smoke affecting Oakland, Alameda and other cities in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

Complaints came too from residents of Milpitas, which is south of Oakland in Santa Clara County. On Thursday, smoke was expected to drift north of the fire. 

"It's a massive pile of debris," said Oakland Fire Department spokesman Michael Hunt on Thursday morning.

Crews were using cranes to pull it apart so firefighters could douse anything still burning. The fire ignited in a light scrap pile that may have contained aluminum, tin or light iron/steel.

"We are working closely with the first responders to bring this situation to a safe conclusion," Radius Recycling spokesperson Danielle Gambogi said Thursday morning.

Data from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District showed "elevated readings last night for fine particulate matter in East Bay, along the Bay as far south as Fremont," district spokesperson Erin DeMerritt said by email Thursday. "There were also elevated readings inland, in places like Moraga, Dublin and San Ramon along the 680 corridor."

The air district extended an air quality advisory initially issued Wednesday into Thursday and expected smoke to continue in the region for several more hours, DeMerritt said.

Crews worked overnight, and Radius Recycling provided resources Thursday morning to finally extinguish the fire.

It was under control at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Hunt said. No one was injured, and the cause is under investigation, he said.

Air quality is not expected to exceed the national air quality health standard for the area, and the air district is not issuing a Spare the Air Alert.

If people smell smoke, they should protect their health by staying inside with their windows and doors closed until the smoke subsides, air district officials said.

Residents should set their air conditioning units and car ventilation systems to recirculate to prevent outside air from coming inside, air district officials added. The U.S. government's air quality index can be found online.