The scrap pile had been burning since around 6 p.m. the night before. But the smoldering fire kept firefighters busy into the morning of April 27.
The blaze was set behind the H&M Auto Industries warehouse on West 106th Street near Lorain Avenue, now a strip mall. Four boys between ages 8 and 12 were taken into custody in connection with the incident.
The task of smothering the flames, which spread briefly into the brick building next door, was made more difficult by a heap of coal stored nearby. Even as the fire was slowly put out, the heat cooked the scrap into a single smoking 8-foot-tall mass.
It had already been a busy week for the department, which was celebrating 120 years of paid professional firefighting. The previous Saturday, it took 50 firefighters in 18 trucks to quell a warehouse fire on East 40th Street. About $225,000 worth of mattress pads and carpets went up in smoke.
Since the 1980s the department has shrunk, but the city employs about 730 firefighters today.