The Koochiching County Solid Waste Transfer Station, Highway 11-71, is closed to the public until further notice after a fire there Monday morning.
Dale Olson, county Environmental Services director, said garbage haulers were allowed into the facility Tuesday afternoon to dump loads, but members of the public will be not yet be allowed into the facility to allow staff to continue the clean-up efforts.
Olson said staff will determine the extent of the damage to the building, which appears to be mostly smoke damage, and inform the public of the transfer station’s hours as soon as possible. People who normally bring their garbage to the station should hold on to it, or contact a local hauler, until more details about when the station will be open to the public are known, urged Olson.
Meanwhile, a cat who spends time at the facility, known as the “Dump Cat,” survived the fire, reported Wayne Fuller, ESD staff.
“We have got more calls concerned about the Dump Cat than anything,” Fuller told The Journal this morning. “He survived the fire which is a complete miracle. He managed to get inside a wall; there must have been an air pocket.”
Staff called 911 at 8:02 a.m. Monday after finding smoke billowing from the building when they arrived to open it, Olson reported. Thick smoke kept people from immediately entering the building, but about 45 minutes later, a semi-trailer of garbage, believed to have been the source of the fire, inside the building, was removed.
Flames and smoke were shooting out the top of the trailer, which was doused with water, Olson said. The garbage inside the trailer was emptied onto the ground to ensure the fire was out.
Fire Chief Adam Mannausau confirmed it now appears the fire was in a trailer used to collect garbage inside the building. He said there appears to be no structural damage to the building, but smoke damage and soot are widespread. The cause remains under investigation, he added.
Firefighters were at the scene for about two hours, using self-contained breathing apparatus and tanks of oxygen to protect themselves from the smoke.
“It’s a big building and that’s always a concern,” he said of the facility. “Visibility was tough.”