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Firefighters battle fire at Robertson Metal Recycling Wednesday

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Dickinson Fire Department responded to a fire at Robertson Metal Recycling in Dickinson around 12:50 p.m. Wednesday. The white cones pictured are front hubs from wind generators, where the blades attach, and are 34,000 lbs each. (Photo courtesy of Reggie Robertson

Fire crews with the Dickinson Fire Department responded to a fire at 195 28th Ave E, north of East Villard Street around 12:50 p.m. Wednesday. Responding units were dispatched in a general alarm following heavy smoke billowing on the eastern part of town, Fire Marshal Mark Selle, with the Dickinson Fire Department, said.

“There was such a big plume of smoke that we could see that we didn’t know how bad it would be,” Selle said. "So we dispatched as a general alarm."

The first firefighters to arrive saw heavy smoke and fire coming from a large scrap metal heap at the east Dickinson business of Robertson Metal Recycling. According to Selle, seven apparatus' from the Dickinson Fire Department responded to the fire, and with some assistance from Robertson Metal Recycling to clear debris, were able to extinguished the blaze shortly after 2:30 p.m.

“The owners of the business were conducting some recycling, torching and cutting on one of their metal piles and started some other materials that were in the pile, such as plastics, rubbers and fiberglass, on fire. Which is why the smoke was so thick and heavy,” Selle said. “The fire started deep inside the pile and there were some old wind turbines, so big heavy parts, that needed to be removed so we could get access. Robertson Metal crews used their big equipment to move the bigger pieces so that we could gain access to the fire.”

Selle said the department deployed their ladder to gain a better vantage point to access the fire as Robertson Metal crews set about moving front hubs from wind generators weighing 34,000 lbs each from around the fire.

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“We used the ladder truck to try and get it from the top and gain better access and visibility of the fire. The higher angle was giving us the better opportunity to complete the extinguishment,” Selle said. “The most challenging aspect was the access issue inside a gated yard and trying to get our trucks back there to the fire. The parts and pieces that were in our way were very large and most of the pieces we were told were real heavy stuff.”

Dickinson Police Department officers assisted in the matter by closing down access to the site and keeping the general public away from the scene and out of any potential hazards. According to Selle there were no injuries or structure damage resulting from the fire.

“The inner yard was mostly dirt and with the recent rains it was really muddy,” Selle said. “We spent more time cleaning off the gear and hoses which were covered in mud, but that’s the nature of the job.”

Reggie Robertson, owner of Robertson Metal Recycling, said he was relieved that the fire was more bark than bite for the company.

“I’m sorry that we’ve made such a smokey looking mess, but as far as damage it’s very tough to damage scrap metal and that’s really all that burned,” Robertson said. “The Dickinson Fire Department took very good care of the deal and they did a fine job. I don’t think it took them an hour to extinguish what was a very good size blaze.”

Robertson said that the fire was only another complication to an otherwise complicated week for the business he, his wife and five sons operate.

“The fire made for a challenging day for us, because we came in yesterday morning and found about 40 feet of our building on our left side had been torn in half from the winds from the storm the night before last, and then we started torch cutting some wind towers, which are like two feet thick, and the conditions were just right with the sparks shooting a long ways and they got into a pile of stuff and I just really appreciate the fire department taking care of us,” Robertson said. “We’ll dig through the piles and get the metals back out and they’ll just be a little more smokey then they were when they went in.”

James B. Miller, Jr. is the Editor of The Dickinson Press in Dickinson, North Dakota. He strives to bring community-driven, professional and hyper-local focused news coverage of southwest North Dakota.
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