Small fire burns at landfill off Highway 218

Published 3:45 pm Friday, January 8, 2010

A small fire has been burning at an Austin landfill off Highway 218 since at least Wednesday.

The fire at the VONCO IV Demolition Debris Landfill, 24477 Highway 218, has been contained to a pit used for construction and demolition waste — not any type of hazardous material — a company representative said.

Steve Halgren, vice president of VONCO IV, said the fire does not pose a threat to people nearby. The area is relatively sparse, and flames are not visible from roads near the pit.

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Halgren said it is unknown at this time how the fire started. Crews from the Austin Fire Department and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have been dealing with it since Wednesday.

The vice president said he doesn’t know when they will have the fire extinguished.

“The sooner, the better,” Halgren said.

Cathy Rofshus, a MPCA spokeswoman, said the agency works with local officials in situations like this to monitor surrounding air quality.

“Our No. 1 concern is public safety,” Rofshus said.

As of Friday afternoon, the site was not deemed to be particularly dangerous to people passing by, the spokeswoman said.

Rofshus said the time it will take to extinguish the fire depends on whether the selected firefighting technique is the right one. In situations like this, where the fire is coming from garbage buried underground, crews often dig out material and spray it down or cover the whole site.

She said crews have been digging out the Austin landfill.