A fire that raged for days in February in a towering scrap pile at the Northern Metal Recycling yard in Becker, Minn., was set by accident, according to a report released Wednesday by the state fire marshal.
Law enforcement agencies responding to the fire saw no indication in the freshly-fallen snow that anyone had tried to climb the 60-foot-tall metal pile. Their dashboard and body cameras showed that the fire was burning far into the metal debris, with no contact to the outer edges, the report says.
More: Becker metal recycling plant fire ‘under control’ as local fire fighters help battle blaze
“Due to this evidence, I did not find any intentional reasons for the fire starting,” wrote Casey Stotts, lead investigator.
According to the report, the fire started Feb. 18 some 20 to 30 feet into a pile of crushed vehicles, appliances and miscellaneous scrap metal at 12432 Energy Dr. SE. The business is in the process of moving its operation from Minneapolis to Becker and was due to open within five days of the fire.
Flames and smoke tower into the sky at the Northern Metal Recycling plant Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Becker. The fire was first reported at about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. Officials say it could burn for several more days. (Photo: Dave Schwarz, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Although batteries are supposedly removed from the vehicles before they’re received at the yard, some occasionally slip through, workers told fire investigators.
Stotts said he could not rule out that a discarded battery or some “water-reactive metal” may have sparked the fire in combustible materials in or around the piled vehicles.
Stotts concluded the fire was caused by accident, though he reserved the right to amend or modify his opinion if he gets additional information.
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