Update 5:51 P.M.
An hour and and forty five minutes after crews first responded to a fire at a recycling storage center in North Newton, it continues to burn, filling parts of the town with black smoke.
Erin McDaniel, who is serving as the public information officer for the event, spoke with firefighters and then addressed the subject of the smoke as well as other safety issues.
She said those living in North Newton who are affected by the smoke should not spend a lot of time outside.
“Your safest thing to do is go in your house,” she said. “Don’t stand out in your yard in it. As far as we know, there’s nothing toxic about the smoke, but we don’t advise people to breathe it. Going inside your house and closing it up is perfectly fine.”
The fire has been burning bales that consisted of cardboard, plastic and other recyclables, putting off a thick black smoke, which the wind has been pushing northward.
On the subject of safety concerns, she also said that those on scene believe there isn’t a risk of the fire spreading to the grain elevator.
“I will say people have been speculating about the grain elevator or an explosion risk, but we’re not seeing that risk right now,” she said. “The grain elevator is stable.”
Old Highway 81 as well as K-15 remain closed due to safety concerns as well as the smoke. And the fire could go on for a while, McDaniel said.
McDaniel spoke with fire fighters and said due to structural building damage they are taking a defensive position around the fire.
“It looked like the bales of recyclables were stacked pretty high,” she said. ” They anticipated that this could be a pretty deep-seated fire. Instead, they will continue to fight the flames from the outside. ”
McDaniel said so far no one has been injured fighting the fire.
A fire fully engulfed a metal storage building in North Newton next to the MidKansas Co-op off of Main Street Thursday afternoon around 4:15 p.m.
Newton Fire and EMS as well as other area fire departments and law enforcement responded to the scene to find flames and smoke billowing out of the building obscuring the view of the nearby grain elevator at times.
The thick black smoke came from the burning of the contents inside the building. The building housed recyclable material collected from North Newton on a weekly basis.
Fire crews began work to knock the flames and fire down and by 4:40 p.m. had made considerable progress. The flames however later flared up and continued to burn at least an hour later.
According to radio chatter on the scene they had to be mindful of a nearby auger feeding into the grain elevator to make sure it didn’t get hot and allow the fire to spread to that structure.
The structure appears to be heavily damaged, and flames had managed to eat through the building’s side.
No cause of the fire was immediately available nor if anyone was injured or in the building at the time it started. There were multiple ambulances on the scene and none appeared to be used in the first half hour of the fire.
The fire also closed down Main Street between Newton and North Newton.
We’ll update the story when more information becomes available.