Burned warehouse had been cited for safety violations

The northeast Minneapolis scrap metal warehouse that burned in a three-alarm fire early Wednesday paid fines two years ago for a variety of workplace safety violations.

Investigators have determined the blaze at the Alliance Steel Company warehouse on St. Anthony Parkway was caused by a spark from a cutting tool. They say a worker operated it too close to a pile of "combustible metal."

When the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration last inspected the warehouse in December 2012, it found four violations. Three were deemed serious: missing safeguards on an ARC welder, wiring problems in a circuit breaker box, and a failure to monitor carbon monoxide levels when vehicles were running inside the building.

The company fixed the problems and agreed to pay $2,347 in fines.

Alliance Steel's products include potentially flammable aluminum shavings. Guidelines from the Aluminum Association, a trade group, say such particles should be stored far from potential ignition sources.

No one was hurt in the fire. But it took about 40 firefighters and six hours to extinguish it.

Company officials did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment. It also has warehouses in St. Paul, Red Wing and Duluth.

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