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Crushed, Stacked Cars Fueling Massive Fire At Becker's Northern Metals Recycling Plant

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A fire at the Northern Metals Recycling Plant in Becker is sending smoke and a strong odor across parts of Minnesota.

The fire has been burning since about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. Huge plumes of smoke can be seen from as far south as Albertville, which is almost 20 miles southeast.

"It was pretty crazy to see because there's just smoke going everywhere," Becker resident Dustin Blomquist said.

Crushed cars stacked for recycling on the plant's property continued to burn as of late Tuesday night. Fire crews from surrounding departments stepped in to help, attacking the fire from all sides.

"What they're going to be doing is continuing to pick apart the pile of debris there to get to the root of the fire, and unfortunately, what's happening is it keeps flaring up when they do that," Becker Police Chief Brent Baloun said.

Northern Metals Fire
(credit: CBS)

The dropping temperature is only compounding the problem.

"Rotating the firefighters. It's cold out, you've got water that's freezing, access to water is also an issue," Baloun said.

And the billowing smoke from the fire put nearby schools on alert.

"One of the questions is do we evacuate? Do we close school? What type of things do we do?" Becker Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Schmidt said.

They kept kids inside at recess and restricted air intake from outside as a precaution.

"Safety is utmost concern," Schmidt said.

The police chief updated city council Tuesday night, sharing communities south of Becker are also feeling the impact of the smoke and stench.

"Let's be honest. It's a big car fire," Baloun said. "So the concern for particulates and stuff like that is the same concern you'd have for just about any other fire."

Baloun says fire crews from several departments will be battling the blaze around the clock. The Minnesota National Guard's 55th Civil Support Unit Team have also been called to the scene. Representatives from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have also been requested to survey and gauge the fire's impact.

Police are advising people in the path to restrict time outside, and those with respiratory issues to stay inside or in a well ventilated area. People are also being asked not to drive near the plant in order to allow emergency vehicle unencumbered access.

Northern Metals gave this statement to WCCO late Tuesday night:

A fire was reported at 2:25 a.m. at Northern Metal's plant at 12432 Energy Drive in Becker. The incident was contained to the plant's feed stock area. The facility is not yet operational. There were no injuries and no damage to buildings or equipment. Northern Metals greatly appreciates the efforts of the responders and thanks them for working to extinguish the fire.

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