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Hundreds of Verso paper rolls still burning in Sartell

Hundreds of Verso paper rolls still burning in Sartell Click to Enlarge Photo:

May 30, 2012 at 7:49 am

SARTELL, MN (KNSI) - Firefighting efforts at Sartell's Verso Paper Mill are heading into a third day as those battling the remaining flames face the unique challenge of extinguishing hundreds of stored paper rolls.

The fire, originally sparked by an explosion Monday, is 95 percent contained, but firefighters are dealing with plenty of hot spots in the plant's warehouse facility.

St. Cloud Fire Chief Bill Mund is one of a team of firefighters from around the area working to finally extinguish the blaze. Mund said the nature of the rolls currently burning makes this firefight exceptionally difficult.

"One of the issues is they are wound extremely tight and as you get a fire on the outside and hit it with a hose stream you peel it back and get to paper that's not even wet and then it starts on fire," Mund says. "Basically you've got to get [the rolls] out, and get them broken apart, and then you can finally exinguish them."

Structural damage to the building is keeping firefighters from accessing the entire facility. Mund says their continued efforts have also taken a toll on the structure, but that is a necessary step in trying to extinguish those last flames.

"The east warehouse wall has been removed quite a bit already to give us access," Mund said. "Once we clear the paper rolls out of there we may have to do some demo work on the roof to finally extinguish the fire."

Firefighters were expected to once again be at the mill all day today as they work to put down every last ember of the blaze.

"Nobody in the fire service is going to relax until we walk in with our thermal imagers and make sure that there aren't any hotspots left," Mund said. "This operation could be going on for some time."

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