Minnesota Crews Battle Recycling Plant Fire

Firefighters in St. Paul, MN, worked in freezing weather conditions while battling a fire in at a recycling plant on Jan. 17, according to Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard.

Just after 4 p.m., units were dispatched for smoke and fire coming from the roof of the Rock Tenn Recycling Plant on Vandalia Avenue, near Interstate 94. St. Paul Ladder 20, the first unit on scene, reported flames and smoke showing from the roof of the multi-story building.

Based on the first reports from the scene, the deputy chief ordered a second alarm.

The fire occurred in an area on the third level that where cereal boxes are coated with wax. The smoky fire was held in check by members of the facilities fire brigade and sprinklers. The brigade used an in-house standpipe system to play water on the fire.

The fire travelled to the duct work, which help it extend throughout the structure. During the fire, it was common to see fire venting through the duct work pipes at roof level. "It wasn't as bad as it first looked" said Zaccard.

Firefighter stretched several handlines through the first level of the building. Firefighters carried hose bundles up aerial ladders and used them from the waterway on Ladder 8, which was set up on the north side of the complex.

The fire was contained in about 90 minutes by 50 firefighters utilizing 15 pieces of apparatus. An engine and rescue squad were left on the scene to continue dousing hot spots through the evening.

The was likely caused by an overheated ball bearing along one of the four processing lines, according to Zaccard.

Three firefighters were killed during a fire at that complex in 1949, which was occupied by the Waldorf Paper Company. Chief of Department Edward Novak, Assistant Chief Frank McMahon and District Chief Harold Barck were killed when a wall collapsed during a building fire.

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