LE MARS, Iowa (KCAU) – Fire officials spent more than three hours fighting a fire that ignited recyclable materials throughout a facility’s building and loading dock.
According to a press release from the Le Mars Fire-Rescue Department, a fire was reported at Van’s Sanitation located at 1553 18th Street SW around 3:38 p.m. Wednesday.
Fire officials reported the fire was in a semi-trailer full of recycled materials, and the fire was spreading to large bales of recycled items. The trailer had been backed up to the loading dock near the building, and the wind had pushed the fire into the loading dock doors. From there, bales and loose recycling materials like plastics, shredded paper, and aluminum started on fire.
The release continued on to say the building’s sprinkler system activated, and five sprinkler heads slowed the fire.
Firefighters attacked the fire with three handlines, a master stream from the Le Mars Aerial platform, and an aerial master stream from the Orange City Fire Ladder truck.
The fire was reportedly under control in about 45 minutes. At that point, fighters had used several thousands of gallons of water and more than 70 gallons of firefighting foam.
Firefighters and Van’s Sanitation staff used skid loaders and a backhoe to remove the bales from the building, along with loose material from the building. The semi-trailer was torn apart to totally extinguish the fire.
Firefighters were on the scene for more than three hours.
The cause of the fire was determined to be accidental and suspected to have started due to a lithium battery explosion. The battery was overheated and caught on fire. The fire was able to spread to nearby materials and grew with the help of the wind and fuel load. Employees at the facility tried to use 10 fire extinguishers to put out the flames, but the help of the fire department was needed.
One employee reportedly suffered from minor burns, and they were treated at the scene by the fire rescue team.
“Firefighters did an excellent job of controlling the fire. This was an exceptionally large fire that moved very rapidly causing an extremely dangerous situation. The weather conditions also were tough on the firefighters with several of them being checked and rehabbed by EMS personnel. A total of 45 Fire and EMS personnel responded to the emergency,” said a statement from Fire Chief David Schipper.
The Le Mars Police Department, Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office, Orange City Fire Department, Mid-American Energy, and City of Le Mars Water Department helped the Le Mars Fire-Rescue at the scene.
Damage amounts are still being assessed, and there is insurance on the property. It was reported that no other buildings or semi-trailers nearby were damaged.