Northern Metal Recycling fire ruled an accident

A truck drives past a pile of cars.
The report from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s State Fire Marshal Division released Wednesday said investigators found no indications that anyone intentionally set the early morning blaze at Northern Metal Recycling.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

State investigators have ruled that the Feb. 18 fire at a scrap metal recycling plant in Becker started accidentally.

The report from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s State Fire Marshal Division released Wednesday said investigators found no indications that anyone intentionally set the early morning blaze at Northern Metal Recycling.

The report said there were no footprints in the fresh snow, and no indications that anyone had climbed into the debris pile. Law enforcement dashboard and body cameras showed the fire burning about 20 to 30 yards into the pile, with no signs of contact on the outside edges.

The towering debris pile that burned was 60 feet tall and included vehicles, appliances and miscellaneous scrap metal. The fire burned for several days and emitted a huge plume of smoke that could be seen for miles.

Northern Metal recently moved its metal shredding operation from north Minneapolis to the new location in a Becker industrial area. The plant had not yet begun operating, but was stockpiling vehicles and other scrap metal. It was set to begin operating within five days of the fire.

The state fire marshal said the fire started when a spark or heated metal came into contact with combustible material. It said it cannot rule out a discarded car battery or water-reactive metal as the source of heat.

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