‘We can’t accept this anymore’: Neighbors express concerns about multiple fires at Southwest Side scrap yard

Neighbors held a meeting with state and city officials Thursday night to discuss growing concerns about multiple fires at Monterrey Iron & Metal Recycling

SAN ANTONIO – Southwest Side resident Joey Cipriano said he sometimes feels uneasy opening his doors and windows, knowing his family home is blocks away from Monterrey Iron & Metal Recycling.

“We can’t accept this anymore,” Cipriano said. “(Neighbors) had to leave their homes because they couldn’t breathe for the sixth time.”

The San Antonio Fire Department confirmed that since 2021, units have responded to six reported structure fire calls at the scrap yard located on Frio City Road. The most recent fire happened on Sept. 21.

Cipriano is just one of dozens coming forward with safety concerns about living near Monterrey Iron. More than 40 people packed a neighborhood meeting Thursday night, pleading to state and city officials for help.

“We just want to know why. What’s going on? Why is it getting so bad now compared to what it was 20 years ago?” questioned Rudy Lopez, the vice president of the Thompson Neighborhood Association.

KSAT 12 video archives show SAFD has responded to calls at this scrap yard for nearly a decade. During the most recent fire on Sept. 21, SAFD crews responded to the fire first around 3:30 p.m. They closed the call just after 1 a.m. on the early morning of Sept. 22.

SAFD said when crews typically respond to this location, it’s because of burning scrap material and machinery. A spokesperson with SAFD confirmed Hazmat has responded to some of these fires but found through air and runoff monitoring no reportable quantities found. That means there was no immediate danger to the surrounding neighborhoods.

But still, concerns are high among neighbors and now state officials, too.

“What (they) don’t have the right to do is endanger the neighborhood,” said state Sen. Jose Menendez of District 26.

In an emailed statement to KSAT 12, Monterrey Iron said they take neighbors’ concerns seriously.

“We have been a part of this community since 1916, employ most of our staff from the local area, participate in community-building events and support fellow businesses and nonprofits that serve our neighborhoods,” Jordan Vexler, the COO, said. “We play an integral role in the recycling process that keeps recyclable products out of landfills.”

In that statement, Monterrey Iron said the six fires were “beyond our control.” It said the group is trained in fire safety and prevention and has a “satisfactory rating” with the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

A TCEQ representative was supposed to attend the neighborhood meeting on Thursday night, but no one showed up. Instead, Menendez read a report from TCEQ dated Nov. 9 that said its San Antonio Regional Office had 32 investigations into the scrap yard, and one was still open as of early October.

At the meeting, an official with code enforcement reported 18 cases with Monterrey Iron, all pending in court. That officer said that, to date, there have been no convictions as cases keep getting “reset.”

Neighbors say they’re living in fear, looking for help, and hoping this meeting is a start to a bigger solution.

“Every single fire that happens in our community just brings us down a little bit more,” Cipriano said.

About the Authors

Avery Everett is a news reporter and multimedia journalist at KSAT 12 News. Avery is a Philadelphia native. If she’s not at the station, she’s either on a hiking or biking trail. A lover of charcuterie boards and chocolate chip cookies, Avery’s also looking forward to eating her way through San Antonio, one taco shop at a time!

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