BECKER -- The Minnesota State Fire Marshal's Office has ruled the Northern Metal Recycling fire in Becker last month was an accident.

A 17-page report indicates lead investigator Casey Stotts determined the fire was accidental, but a cause could not be definitively determined beyond combustible materials caught fire 20-30-yards inside the 60-foot high debris pile.

Northern Metal has a protocol for "end of life" vehicles where all fluids and batteries are removed prior to ending up in the scrap yard. Because every vehicle entering the yard is numbered and tracked, Stotts says it is very rare that a battery is missed, but noted it can happen.

The report states that normally vehicles wouldn't be piled high, but the site was collecting scrap just days ahead of becoming operational.

Stotts also investigated a suggestion that materials from the Press Bar fire the day before may have been sent to Becker site, but the information proved to be untrue. There also were no footprints in the fresh snow near the debris pile which caught fire.

Stotts says he can't rule out a discarded battery or water-reactive metal which when the cranes opened the pile, got oxygen and flared up to a large fire.

The fire broke out around 2:25 a.m. on February 18th and burned for three days before firefighters could extinguish it.  No one was hurt in the blaze.

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