Fire once again blazed through a block of scrapyards in East Flatbush Wednesday, injuring a firefighter less than a year after the junkyard previously caught fire.
Shortly after 9:30 am on July 13, New York City Fire Department firefighters responded to a two-alarm blaze at S&A Scrap Iron & Metal on Preston Court near E. 56th Street in an industrial area straddling the border of East Flatbush and Canarsie. Smoke-eaters encountered a massive plume of smoke emanating from a dumpster fire at the compound, which could be seen from hundreds of yards away. An FDNY rep told Brooklyn Paper that a structure on-site had also sustained some damage.
The fire was under control a little after 10:30, but one firefighter sustained minor injuries and is recuperating in the hospital.
Wednesday’s blaze came just just ten months after the last fire on Preston Court in September of last year, when an e-bike battery concealed in a pile of scrap iron exploded, resulting in an inferno necessitating two hours of firefighting and minor injuries to one of New York’s bravest.
Fires are constant on Preston Court, a three-block road lined with junkyards and warehouses just north of Foster Avenue. Wednesday’s incident marked the 12th separate incident in the past six years where Preston Court has been mentioned by the FDNYalerts Twitter account, per a Brooklyn Paper analysis. Most have been concentrated on the single block between East 56th Street and Ralph Avenue.
The September 2021 fire took place six weeks after the previous fire on the block.
S&A Scrap owner Sal Vallario was unavailable for comment Wednesday, as the business cleaned up the mess. It’s unclear what caused Wednesday’s inferno, but last September, Vallario told Brooklyn Paper that the e-bike batteries responsible for that month’s fire are so dangerous and flammable that his teams scour scrap loads for them to ensure they’re not caught in any heaps. Unfortunately, one had slipped through the cracks.
“We bring in a lot of tonnage of material, it’s hard to go through every piece,” Vallario said at the time. “It’s almost like Border Control. So we search and try hard, but we missed this piece, and one thing led to the next, unfortunately.”
E-bikes’ lithium-ion batteries are causing an increasing number of major fires across the city, and the FDNY estimates the batteries are on track to cause twice the number of fires this year compared to last. E-bikes are the vehicle of choice for the city’s 65,000 food delivery workers, as well as a growing number of commuters, and in recent years e-bike shops have sprung up across the five boroughs to service the bikes.
The batteries can catch fire for a myriad of reasons, like being left in the heat for too long or being charged improperly. The fire risk is so great that the New York City Housing Authority is currently trying to implement a blanket ban on e-bikes on its properties, though pushback from delivery workers has put the rule on hold for now.
Fires have also frequently occurred at S&A’s neighbor, the much-larger Brooklyn Resource Recovery, where automobiles are junked and shredded. Whenever there’s a fire at Brooklyn Resource, noxious fumes from gasoline and the like tend to pollute the air, leading to a tense relationship with neighbors. By 2017 the problem had gotten so bad that locals called on the MTA to investigate and shut down Brooklyn Resource, arguing the transit agency was within its rights by allegedly partially owning the lot located next to Long Island Rail Road tracks. The MTA denied ownership of the land.