Residents near blaze in Clayton County urged to avoid the smoke
By Orlan Love, The Gazette
A spokeswoman at a Clayton County sand mine said Friday that a fire originally thought to have been minor has turned out to be more serious.
Beth Regan said an equipment fire in the underground Pattison Sand mine, which broke out Wednesday, was still smoldering Friday, prompting the company to call the Garnavillo Fire Department, which stayed on the scene about three hours.
Regan said it appears that piping materials used in the slurry operations ignited, causing the fire.
Department of Natural Resources officials warned nearby residents to avoid smoke from the fire, which the DNR described as heavy on the Mississippi River side of the facility near the small town of Clayton.
Though mine officials were not sure what was burning, the DNR said conveyor belts and plastic piping likely are on fire. Quantities of tires and fertilizer that are stored in the mine are in the Consolidated Barge and Grain area, an entirely separate part of the mine, and are not at risk of catching fire, the DNR said.
Noting that smoke can contain hazardous materials including small particles, the DNR said people in the area should avoid heavy smoke and areas where odors of burning are prevalent.
The DNR is working with Pattison to hold water and foam from firefighting materials on-site.
Mine manager Bill Baudais said the situation continues to be assessed with the help of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
No one was injured in the fire, which forced workers to leave the mine until the Mine Safety and Health Administration authorizes their return.
The company mines sand used in the hydrofracturing, or fracking, process of extracting oil and natural gas.
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