State environmental experts say they’ve detected -no- toxins in the smoke rising from a huge fire of thousands of junked cars at a Mason City scrap metal facility. Iowa Department of Natural Resources spokesman Jeff Van Steenberg says they’ve done air sample tests in a number of areas downwind of the blaze at Behr Mason City and have found nothing hazardous. Van Steenberg says “There wasn’t any detectable levels on the ground. Obviously, lots of different things are released in that kind of fire, but we were getting some dispersion in the atmosphere.” The air was checked for levels of hydrogen sulfide, benzene, chlorine, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Oxygen levels were also found to be normal.
Van Steenberg says while there are no toxins in the air, residents with asthma or respiratory conditions should stay inside due to the large amount of smoke in the air. He says people who are sensitive should avoid the plume of smoke — just look up into the sky and see which way it’s blowing. He says to remain indoors and run the air conditioning, if possible.
Van Steenberg says the D-N-R plans to do more tests at the site to assess the risk of chemical runoff. Once the fire is out, he says they’ll go in to determine whether there was any problem with the runoff of plastics and rubber that melted and may reach surface water.
The fire broke out Wednesday morning and is still burning. It’s consuming between six- and eight-thousand crushed cars. Fire crews say the massive blaze will have to be left alone, monitored, and allowed to burn out as it’s too big to extinguish. The cause of the fire is unknown.