Rice County landfill fire continues smoldering 2 days later, remains closed to the public

Rice County officials say its landfill will remain closed to the public Wednesday with the exception of licensed haulers as debris continues to smolder at the site.

According to the county, it is “difficult to predict” when the fire will be completely out.

Aerial footage shows a large billow of smoke coming from the landfill Wednesday afternoon. The fire was first reported around 5 p.m. Monday at the county sanitary landfill off of Highway 3.

RELATED: Rice County limits access to landfill due to safety concerns, ongoing conditions caused by fire

Air quality monitoring equipment will be in place for personal air and facility perimeter monitoring, the county said. The purpose of the equipment is to “assess air quality in the working environment and protect worker health.”

Perimeter monitoring will assess the air surrounding the landfill and “evaluate off-site migration.”

The county said the environmental accounting firm Foth is compiling information to measure the air quality before, during and after the fire. Earlier this week, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency designated southern Minnesota Air Quality Index (API) between unhealthy and moderate because of ground-level ozone.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Rice County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Josh Malecha initially said it’s likely the combustion source came from materials brought to the landfill, such as hot ash or lithium-ion batteries. He added the smoke carries an unpleasant smell, particularly downwind.

Firefighters first responded early Monday evening. No injuries or damage to property were reported.