Officials: Small fire at Asarco no longer burning

By Chris Roberts – El Paso Times

A wooden fence post burned for about 30 minutes last night at the former Asarco smelter, officials said this morning.

No cleanup employees or people driving on roads near the site were injured or in any danger, said Roberto Puga, the trustee in charge of demolishing and cleaning the century-old smelter.

It appears that molten metal from a cutting torch used yesterday during demolition of a wooden trestle lodged in the fence post and smoldered for 12 hours or more before bursting into flames. Cleanup staff noticed the fire at about 2 a.m. and called the El Paso Fire Department. The fire was out by 2:30 a.m., Puga said.

All demolition activities have stopped while officials determine the exact cause and whether changes in procedures are necessary to prevent future occurrences, Puga said.

A report on the incident will be sent to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. After the report is completed, it will be posted on the custodial trust’s Web site,

Chris Roberts may be reached at; 546-6136.