MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Crews have put out a scrap metal and rubbish fire after more than two hours of attack at a recycling facility in north Minneapolis Wednesday afternoon.
The Minneapolis Fire Department says firefighters were called to EMR Northern Metal Recycling off of 28th Avenue and Pacific Street North at about 1:19 p.m. The fire is believed to have been the result of spontaneous combustion at the bottom of a large debris pile.
Officials say it’s possible it was sparked by metal scrapping against metal, while surrounded by items like insulation, foam and appliances, like refrigerators.
Workers at the facility were unable to control the fire, which spread quickly throughout the pile. MFD officials say crews worked to “surround and drown” the fire with massive amounts of water via several aerial water towers and the use of large blitz fire nozzles.
Front loaders were also used to remove rubbish in order for firefighters to better douse the fire’s core. Officials say the fire was extinguished just after 3:30 p.m., but crews are still spraying the pile with water to prevent any reignition. No nearby structures were damaged.
MFD says the state fire marshal and environmental inspectors are at the scene to determine how hazardous the resulting plumes of smoke are. Northeast Minneapolis residents are being urged to close their windows due to winds blowing the smoke eastward. There are no reported injuries.
The facility was at the center of controversy in 2019, when its metal shredder was shut down following a whistleblower complaint sent to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency about falsified records.
Several Democratic lawmakers who represent the area — including Sens. Bobby Joe Champion and Kari Dziedzic, and Reps. Fue Lee, Sydney Jordan and Esther Agbaje — released a joint statement late Wednesday afternoon about the fire:
We do not have a lot of information at this time, but we are closely monitoring the ongoing situation along with city officials and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). This is now the third fire at a Northern Metals site in the last five years and they have a history of violations at this site that caused the state to order them to cease shredding operations. Due to that history, we are going to take every precaution necessary to protect our community.
We are strongly committed to environmental justice. This area has some of the highest asthma rates in the state and we do not think our constituents should have to endure any more air and noise pollution from this site. We will be following up with the MPCA to ensure the site is operating legally and the air quality in our area is safe. We will share more information with our neighbors as it becomes available.