The fire happened at Republic Services Recycling Center in Cedar Rapids. The company handles recycling for 177 communities in Iowa. There is significant smoke and water damage at its warehouse in Cedar Rapids, but officials with the Cedar Rapids Fire Department say the building suffered only minor structural damage.
An automated alarm went off inside the building at about 10:30 Wednesday night. According to the Cedar Rapids Fire Department, fire fighters had “zero visibility” once they arrived because of the smoke. It took a “prolonged search” due to the building’s size to find where the fire first sparked. The recycled paper bundles determined to be the source of the fire were inside a machine.
Last night’s extremely cold weather as well as the building’s layout created problems for the first fire crews on the scene and more units were dispatched to help. The building is a regional center for material collected by Republic Services Recycling. Video monitors show fire crews were on the scene within two minutes of the automated alarm. A company spokeswoman says the fire’s major impact was in the “document destruction” area and all that water-soaked paper can still be recycled.
Crews are now working to restore electricity to the building.
(This post was updated at 10:12 a.m. with additional information.)