Authorities investigate fire that consumed semi-trailer full of tires at South St. Paul tire shop


Firefighters from the Inver Grove Heights and South Metro fire departments work to control a fire in a semitrailer full of used tires early July 28. The petroleum-dense tires intensified the flames and heat that melted and warped the paint on the South St. Paul tire shop building nearby. A second empty semi-trailer was destroyed in the blaze. (Courtesy of the South Metro Fire Department)

Officials suspect fire was set intentionally

It took about an hour and half for firefighters to control the flames engulfing a semi-trailer stuffed more than three-quarters full with tires, floor to ceiling, before the sun came up July 28 in South St. Paul.

The fire burned hot, due to its petroleum-dense kindling, according to Mark Erickson, the South Metro Fire Department assistant chief of operations, so overcoming the heat was a "challenge."

"We used a fire-fighting foam to speed up our process," Erickson said.

A passerby reported flames coming from the back side of Pomp's Tire Services around 3:51 a.m. Monday at 575 Hardman Ave. About 30 firefighters from Inver Grove Heights and the South Metro Fire Department, which serves South St. Paul and West St. Paul, were summoned to the scene.

According to Erickson, the semi-trailer of tires was enveloped in flames, and the fire spread to another empty semi-trailer that was against the building.

The semi-trailers were destroyed. Although the fire ignited near the business, there was minimal damage to the building--just melted and discolored paint from the heat.

"That was a concern early on that we were going to have a building fire, as well," Erickson said.

The business was closed and unoccupied when the fire started, Erickson said.

The tire service company had stacked the tires, preparing them for recycling. Local employees deferred requests for comment to a representative of the company's corporate office in Green Bay, Wisconsin, who could not be immediately reached Monday afternoon.

On its Facebook page Monday, South Metro Fire initially called the fire "suspicious," but later changed its post to simply say "the cause of the fire is under investigation."

Erickson said there was a debate among officials on whether or not it was appropriate to use the word "suspicious."

"We are considering it suspicious," Erickson said Monday afternoon. "It remains under investigation."

He said it's hard to say how long it may take to find out how the fire was started.

"Often times vehicle fires, especially where you have damage like this, go undetermined indefinitely. So I don't know if we'll ever find out," he said. "We say it's suspicious in part because we're often likely able to rule out accidental causes.

"We're suspicious that the fire was intentionally set."

Erickson said the fire doesn't seem consistent with past bouts of arson in area cities, where garbage cans and couches in alleyways were torched.

"It's not the same kind of fire."

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7815 and kroby@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/KRobyNews.

 

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