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Full Effect of Verso Fire Remains Uncertain as Clean-up Continues

Full Effect of Verso Fire Remains Uncertain as Clean-up Continues Click to Enlarge Photo:

Jun 7, 2012 at 7:58 am

SARTELL, MN (KNSI) - The commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development says unemployment benefits will be available for any workers laid off because of the explosion and fire last week at the Verso paper mill in Sartell.

Commissioner Mark Phillips visited the mill Saturday and says it's both a good news and bad news situation. The good news is the paper machine at the mill is intact, but the bad news is the fire took out the power plant. In Phillips words, "that's a concern now, and down the road."

Questions have been raised about whether the fire and explosion could be enough to permanently close the mill, but Phillips remains optimistic.

The State Fire Marshal's Office is continuing their investigation into the cause of the explosion and fire, and OSHA is looking into how one worker was killed and four were injured.The last active fire unit still at the scene went home Tuesday night. Demolition work in the warehouse portion of the mill continues, as smoldering paper rolls are being removed with heavy equipment.

Eighty-four regional fire departments in all assisted at the scene. Sartell City Administrator Patti Gartland says the fourteen neighboring departments that provided the most immediate and extensive assistance have been invited to join Sartell firefighters in the Sartell SummerFest parade Saturday morning. Gartland says those attending the parade are asked to extend a hearty "thank you" greeting to all the firefighters and fire departments as they pass by in the parade route.

The on-site investigation into the cause of the explosion and fire should be finished by late next week, but Gartland says the actual determination of the cause may not be known for several months.

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