A large fire at an abandoned meatpacking plant in downtown Cedar Rapids continues to burn, and the smoke has raised health concerns. The fire began Tuesday morning and firefighters were going to let it burn but the wind shifted and the fire is getting bigger.
Cedar Rapids Fire Department spokesman Greg Buelow says firefighters can’t go into the building because it’s unsafe. A demolition company is on the scene and knocking down walls to give crews better access. He says they have made some progress on the south side of the building knocking down several walls, allowing them to spray some foam on the fire.
But he says the fire continues to spread as there are several interlocking buildings of about 125-thousand square feet. Buelow says they will continue trying to get the fire under control. Buelow says they will continue working with the demolition company to try and knock down more walls to see if they can put out the fire. He says they have to go slow to be safe.
“It’s a huge building, it’s going to take a period of time. There’s different areas that we see smoke coming from so it just takes a long time to be able to tear down those walls and be able to access the material that is burning,” Buelow says.
Firefighters say twenty-five semi-trailers worth of corn are likely fueling the blaze. Air quality tests show particulates at fourteen times more than what’s allowed over a twenty-four hour period by the Environmental Protection Agency. Health officials are urging nearby workers and residents to stay inside. The wind is not expected to shift until Friday and the fire could smolder for months.