AUBURN — A fast-moving fire at 741 Broad Street, the site of a former junkyard, has consumed a pile of tires, several vehicles and caused a number of gas tanks to explode, sending a thick plume of black smoke over South Auburn.

John McLean, who bought the 10-acre lot along the Little Androscoggin River about five years ago, was working on the property separating the junk into piles, he said. He tossed a cigarette butt on the ground, which set some leaves on fire, which caught a pile of tires on fire.

“I must not have crushed the butt out completely,” he said.

That string of fire led to vehicles and a number of gas tanks. Firefighters trained their hoses on flames that enveloped a junked truck.

A friend of McLean’s who was at the scene hailed a passing motorist to call for help because neither man had a cell phone.

McLean, who lives in a home on the lot, had been working to separate the junk, including tires, brush and metal, preparing to haul the metal off to a scrap dealer.

“It’s been a hell hole for 30 years,” he said. He plans to rid the lot of junk and create camp sites, he said.

Fire departments from Auburn, Minot and New Gloucester have responded to the scene.

A separate brush fire has also been reported at Pierce Street in Lewiston.

741 Broad St., Auburn

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143 Pierce St., Lewiston

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The Sun Journal will update this story throughout the afternoon.

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