AUBURN – A fast-moving fire at a former junkyard on Broad Street consumed a pile of tires, several vehicles and caused some gas tanks to explode Monday.

John McLean, who bought the 10-acre lot at 741 Broad St. along the Little Androscoggin River about five years ago, said he was separating the junk into piles. He said he tossed a cigarette butt on the ground, which set some leaves on fire, then caught a pile of tires on fire.

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

The flames ignited some vehicles and a number of gas tanks. Firefighters trained their hoses on flames that enveloped a junked truck.

A friend of McLean’s 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 separating the junk, including tires, brush and metal, preparing to haul the metal off to a scrap dealer.

“It’s been a hellhole 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 responded to the scene.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection was called because of the presence of pollutants in close proximity to the river.

Auburn Fire Department Capt. Geoffrey Low said that the Maine Forest Service is also investigating the fire.

A brush fire was also reported at 143 Pierce St. in Lewiston, where the side of a building was charred.

The cause has not been determined, though Capt. Victor Gaudreau cautioned people driving or walking to “use care and caution” when discarding cigarettes, because the fire danger is high.

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