Firefighters make progress against the scrapyard blaze near Port Manatee

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A breakage fire near Port Manatee that could be seen for miles was nearly extinguished Sunday morning after firefighters from multiple agencies worked all day Saturday to contain it.

the North River Fire Department responded to a fire at Port Manatee Scrap Metal at 13838 Harllee Road on Saturday morning. Other agencies joined the effort later. Smoke could be seen billowing into the air for miles and motorists stopped to watch – something authorities warned against.

On Sunday morning, officials said they hoped to end the scene soon.

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“There are still limited crews at the scene to cool hot spots and contain the remaining fire,” Deputy Chief Joe Sicking said in an 8 a.m. update Sunday. The North River Fire Department had three stations available to cover calls, while two focused on the scrapping scene.

Smoke billows from a breakage fire near Port Manatee on Saturday.

On Saturday afternoon, authorities warned motorists passing the site not to stop and told nearby residents to stay indoors with windows and doors closed to avoid breathing in the smoke.

“Don’t stop,” Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said. “You have a mixture of metals and plastics from appliances and vehicles. Residents and … vehicles should not stop on the side of (US) 41 and should not breathe this air.”

During the press conference where Hopes spoke, smoke from the fire was billowing high into the air and causing no visibility issues on nearby roads. Hopes said the winds were keeping the smoke from dispersing and authorities were continuing to monitor visibility on nearby roads.

“It’s piles of junk – there’s a lot of mixed material being used as fuel right now,” said Hopes, flanked by firefighters. “There are compressors in old fridges and freezers. It’s not a safe place to stop on the way to the beach.”

The cause of the fire remained unknown and is being investigated, officials said.

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