MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A massive fire burned at Northern Metals Recycling in Becker much of last week.

Just one week earlier, Minneapolis fire inspectors cited the company for several code violations at its scrap metal collection and storage facility in Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Fire Department went back to the facility Monday to do an inspection. Brad Schmoll, Minneapolis Fire Inspection Services manager, concluded the company is still not in compliance with all of its code violations.

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“There’s magnesium, there’s all sorts of metals that are involved, there’s oils, there’s transmission fluids,” Schmoll said.

Towering piles of scrap metal are the reason the company is still out of compliance with Minneapolis fire code. The piles aren’t supposed to be higher than 20 feet.

“We’ve had reports that it looks like they’re three stories in height,” Schmoll said.

That issue is just one of seven violations the Minneapolis Fire Department issued on Feb. 11.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s to limit the size of the piles so that you don’t get a deep-seeded fire,” Schmoll said.

Other infractions included lack of an emergency response and fire safety plan, storing combustibles under high-voltage transmission lines, and not having proper fire lanes cleared and marked, among other things. Bryan Tyner, Minneapolis Fire Department’s assistant chief of administration, says these violations could lead to a disastrous situation.

“It would make it very much more difficult for us to get in and be able to fight a fire,” Tyner said.

Most issues, except for the pile height, were resolved by Monday’s inspection. Environmental inspectors were also on sight Monday, and did not find anything concerning. Patrick Hanlon, director of environmental programs for the city’s health department, says they are still keeping a close eye on the company.

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“From a health department perspective, we also have concerns with the violations that Northern Metals has had on that site, and the behavior that they’ve had on that site in the past,” Hanlon said. “We also had those concerns, and so we’re out there on a regular basis looking at that.”

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued its own order to Northern Metals in response to the Becker fire. They note that cars are crushed, stacked and stored in larger piles in Minneapolis the same way they are stored in Becker.

The MPCA also says Northern Metals “does not have metal collecting and storage practices in place at either location that protect the health and welfare of Minnesota residents.”

Minneapolis fire inspectors will go back weekly and issue fines until the piles are reduced.

Erin Hassanzadeh

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