Officials at a Clayton County sand mine now say a fire they believed to be small and extinguished on Wednesday morning was actually still smoldering as of Friday, and was more serious than they had originally believed.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said heavy smoke on the "Mississippi River side" of the mine had been burning since Thursday night, when it flared up.The DNR said conveyor belts and plastic piping were among the items burning. They also said that tires and fertilizer on the property were stored in an entirely separate area and were not at risk of catching fire.
According to Pattison Sand spokeswoman Beth Regan, an equipment fire in the underground Pattison Sand mine prompted the Garnavillo Fire Department to be called. Firefighters were on scene for about three hours, Regan said Friday.
Regan now says it appears that piping materials used in the slurry operations ignited, causing the fire. She also said the fire continues to smolder. Regan said the mine manager, Bill Baudais, said the situation continues to be assessed with the help of Mine Safety and Health Administration.
There continue to be no injuries as a result of the fire. Those in the area of Pattison are encouraged to stay away from heavy smoke or burning odors and to stay upwind if possible.
Some residents near Pattison Sand Company said Saturday they believe smoke from the fire was making them sick. Don Neal and his son Mike, live near Pattison Sand Company during the summer months.
Don Neal told KWWL since the fire on Wednesday he has felt sick.
"I've got a sore throat and a headache. There are several other people who have had the same problems," Don Neal said.
Neal has yet to see a doctor, but told KWWL that Saturday he was beginning to feel better.
On Saturday, KWWL was able to see the mine from a boat on the Mississippi River. The reporter on the scene believes the smolder has since stopped.
KWWL reached out to Pattison Sand Company for a comment on Saturday about the fire, but no phone calls were returned and a worker on the scene said the company has no comment.
KWWL also reached out to Garnavillo Fire Department on Saturday, but no phone calls were returned.