The plume of black smoke and the stink of the burning rubber were the giveaways.
While responding to an out of control burn last Friday, fire officials found burning tires at the back of a junky hideout on FM 14 North, in Smith County. Wednesday, Smith County Litter Abatement Officer Danny Brasher paid the owner a visit.
"There's junk cars, there's trash, there's scrap iron, scrap metal, you name it, it's out here," Brasher said. There were car batteries sitting on the ground, abandoned tractor trailers, oil drums, oil on the ground, and old refrigerators. Its been piling up for years, a growing threat to the environment.
"There's neighbors living on either side of this property," Brasher explained. "They all had to smell that burning rubber. There's rats and snakes and all kinds of critters that come from this property and go on to the other property. It's just not an end to it."
There were least 50 cars on this property all waiting to be crushed and turned in to scrap metal. The problem: Before the cars were crushed the fluid inside, like the oil and transmission fluid, were not taken out. When the car is crushed, that fluid leaks straight in to the ground. The environmental agency and fire marshal checked for other threats on the property.
"There's the nuisance issues with the smoke and the smoke does contain some carcinogenic materials," said Dale Vodak with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Almost a week later, the tires are still smoldering. Property owner Earl Nix did not want to speak to KLTV on camera. He told us of camera, the property is leased to another man. Danny Brasher said both are responsible. Nix promised to clear it away, piece by piece.
"As you see from the number of items that are out there," Danny Brasher said, "they've got a long way to go."
The property was once a legal junkyard. However ownership has changed so often over the years, it's never been registered again as a business. Danny Brasher said no immediate citations will be issued to the current owner. However, he says he will turn his report over to the District Attorney and charges could come later.