Firefighters battle two-alarm blaze, freezing conditions at Miller Compressing

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee firefighters battled a two-alarm fire at Miller Compressing in the Menomonee Valley on Monday afternoon, November 17th. Miller Compressing is a scrap and recycling business.

Six engines, six ladder companies, three med units and airport rescue were dispatched to the facility at 1900 W. Bruce around 2:00 p.m. after someone noticed billowing smoke coming from a large metal building. Fire officials say inside that massive building, several huge piles of car seats were burning.

"There was just a big black smoke coming out of there," Oscar Casteneda, who owns the nearby Oscar's Pub & Grill said.

"Basically what it is -- plastics, polyester smoldering. Some of these piles are 30 feet tall. Compounded by the fact it's in a building with zero visibility, heavy black smoke," Assistant Fire Chief Daniel Lipski said.

If all of that wasn't enough to make the fire difficult to fight, the water supply in the area is limited as well. Fire trucks had to bring in water from a half-mile away.

And then, there was the cold! Wind chills were in the single digits on this blustery Monday afternoon.

"Super cold! Super, super cold! I feel really bad for the guys right now, but they know what they are doing," Casteneda said.

"As you can imagine, the water that sprays out of the hose is instantly turning into ice. We do have some temperature changes to deal with," said Lipski.

Fire crews were being rotated because of the scale of the fire and the bitter cold.

"We`re gonna have to rotate crews through to make sure we can get them something warm to eat and drink and get em in and out of the cold," Lipski said.

Officials say a foam truck from Mitchell International Airport was brought to assist.

No injuries were reported from the scene, but medical crews were standing by.

This wasn't the first fire at Miller Compressing in recent memory. Firefighters are well practiced in their response to the Bruce Street location, and they know it can take hours to get the scrapyard's fires under control.

Firefighters responded to Miller Compressing in July, when a pile of junk cars went up in flames. There was another two-alarm fire in April of 2012, and the smoke was visible from Miller Park.

"It`s very difficult for me to comment on somebody`s manufacturing process. What they are doing is very necessary. It`s something they do a good job at. They have an incredible safety record. Any time you take a bunch of those types of materials or anything that is soaked in oils or gasoline or anything of that nature you always run the risk of having something ignite," Lipski said.