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Smoke from the fire at Earth Recycling could be seen from miles away. The fire started at the business on the west side of Minot, N.D., late Thursday morning, May 18, 2017. Eloise Ogden / Minot Daily News

Minot recycling center fire sends thick, black smoke throughout city

MINOT, N.D. -- Fire broke out late Thursday morning at a recycling business on the west side of Minot, sending thick, black smoke billowing into the air.

Earth Recycling, owned by Arden Jesz, is on the west side of the U.S. Highway 83 West Bypass. Smoke could be seen throughout the city and there were reports of ash falling miles away.

Minot Rural Fire Department along with firefighting units from area communities and Minot Air Force Base as well as numerous other emergency crews responded to the blaze that started about 11:15 a.m. Thursday. The wind pushed the fire. When the fire started the wind was about 13 mph with gusts to 20 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Rex Weltikol, chief of the Minot Rural Fire Department, said at a press conference held Thursday afternoon near the fire scene that they do not know yet what started the fire. At that time, he said they needed to get a controlled fire before they begin investigating.

"We are doing air monitoring around here," Weltikol said.

A news release issued late Thursday afternoon said officials were conducting tests and monitoring the air quality in the area around the bypass near the scene of the fire. At that time, monitoring found little or no change in air quality and the City of Minot Fire Department would continue to monitor the area. Officials said there was no need to evacuate any areas other than those directly around the fire.

Weltikol said there were no major explosions occurring at the site, although there were some smaller explosions caused by paint and some propane bottles releasing pressure.

As of the afternoon press conference, Weltikol said the State Health Department was on its way to Minot to make sure everything was going well. "As of now, everything is going as well as can be," he said.

Weltikol said the  recycling business site formerly was a block plant. He said the present site had paper, aluminum – all kinds of recycling material.

Initially, he said there was some danger to traffic. "So we had to shut it all down," he said.  

Weltikol said firefighters at the scene besides Minot Rural Fire Department included Burlington, Surrey, Carpio, Minot Air Force Base and City of Minot plus numerous other emergency responders assisting at the scene.

Minot AFB's firefighting team sent to the scene was comprised of six firefighters – four military members and two civilians – a foam trailer, water tanker and crash truck, said Senior Airman Sahara L. Fales of the Minot AFB Public Affairs Office.

Weltikol said they would be watching the fire "until we feel it's safe to leave."