UPDATE CAUSE: Fire At Rich Metals Co. In Blue Grass, IA - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

UPDATE CAUSE: Fire At Rich Metals Co. In Blue Grass, IA

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 Update 2-18-14: The Blue Grass Fire Department has determined the cause of a big fire at the Rich Metals Co. plant on Feb. 11, 2014. Official say the fire was started after a worker was using a metal grinder when a spark or a hot metal shaving fell into a pile of metal turnings that were covered in oil. The cause of the fire has been ruled an accident.


One of the Rich Metals Company building is destroyed after an early morning fire. As the fire grew, it sent up billows of smoke across the skyline. That smoke could be seen from miles away.

Several issues with fighting this fire, as crews dealt with bitter cold temperatures dangerous to the firefighters and the equipment.

A hazmat team is inspecting a creek to see if any dangerous chemicals got in. That creek is about a half block way from the fire.
It took hours for crews to fight these flames and smoke this morning. Now they're worried the water they were spraying onto the engulfed building may have mixed with hazardous oils and liquids and washed into a nearby creek.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has environmental specialists on the scene, making sure the impact of this fire doesn't seep into the local ecosystem. 

"Right now we're worried about our runoff getting into the crick," said Blue Grass Fire Chief Brian Seamer. "So we've got an environmental mark coming out for that."

A run-off mixture that could contain hydraulic oil, diesel fuel and waste oil from the scrap metal center.

"They placed the boom on the down-graded side to where the water would have run off before it entered the crick and then they placed it in locations along the crick," said environmental specialist for Iowa DNR Terry Jones. "We're going to walk the crick and assess the damages that we see and see where we're at with that and they'll continue their clean up efforts on that end."
But that's not the only thing fire fighters and crews were faced with today. A local business owner right across the street from the fire says he was concerned about what he heard coming from Rich Metals Co. 

"There was multiple explosions that were going on," said owner of TC Auto Todd Conway. "You could hear, sounded like propane tanks or something blowing up. There was some debris that came flying across the fence into the street over in the yard."

Chief Seamer said what he heard was propane tanks and acetylene cylinders exploding, a type of cutting torch fuel, as well as tires. 

Conway said he was worried something might blast over and hit one of the cars in his lot. 

"I looked out the window and it was completely engulfed," said Conway. "There were flames probably shooting 40 feet in the air. Smoke just trailing everywhere."

Crews are still investigating the cause of the fire and Chief Seamer said they're not worried about any toxic fumes that may have been released during the blaze.

"We did evacuate Blue Grass School just as a precautionary measure," said Chief Seamer. "We did send the kids home."

The Rich Metals Co takes in scrap metals for recycling and processing, iron, aluminum and steel. The company then sends those products to EPA approved facilities.

As crews battled the fire, a nearby school was evacuated. The Davenport School District auto-dialer sent out an emergency alert system to parents in the district. The message told parents who send their children to Blue Grass Elementary School it was evacuated for precautionary measures.

"We had to evacuate as a precaution, we were at no danger at any time, but just felt it would be better," said Blue Grass Elementary School Principal Diane Simmons.

"I would feel that the fumes getting in to the schools and then I heard with the metals over there burning there might be explosions," said Blue Grass Elementary School parent Scott Chalupa. "But that's probably the decision they made to get the school evacuated."

The school bussed their students to St. Andrew's Catholic Church where parents picked them up.

Crews also were battling the cold temps. When they started working the fire it was -14 degrees outside.

"Really cold and lot of smoke and like I said, slippery," said Chief Seamer. "That was the biggest problem, we were sliding all over the place. The biggest thing is cycling guys in and out so they stay warm."


Nobody was hurt in the fire. 
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