A fire at a north Minneapolis scrap metal facility was knocked down Wednesday afternoon after it sent charcoal-black plumes of smoke into the air over parts of the city.

The fire at Northern Metal Recycling spontaneously combusted in the center of rubbish and metal piles and spread rapidly before employees could extinguish it, according to a news release from the Minneapolis Fire Department.

Fire crews were called to the facility at 2800 N. Pacific St. in north Minneapolis at 1:20 p.m.

Front-end loaders with cranes from the company were used to separate rubbish piles to expose buried fires and hot spots so they could be put out.

The flames were contained to the junk and metal piles and no buildings caught on fire, authorities said.

No one was hurt, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Last year, a towering pile of scrap metal caught on fire at the company's Becker location. At the time, the company was in the process of moving its operation from north Minneapolis to Becker.

Though batteries are removed from vehicles before they are put into the lot, workers told fire investigators that some occasionally slip though. That fire was ruled an accident.

In 2019, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency shut down shredding operations at the north Minneapolis plant, citing it for storing vehicles in stacks more than 20 feet high. The north Minneapolis facility now only stores junked vehicles.

City of Minneapolis fire inspectors have visited the Minneapolis site monthly this year to make sure the company "continues to comply with the fire code as it pertains to the height of combustible materials stored outside," according to an e-mail from city of Minneapolis spokesman Casper Hill.

"Compliance helped reduce the size of today's fire and made it easier for MFD crews to extinguish," Hill said in the e-mail.

Darin Broton, spokesman for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said the officials reached out to the city of Minneapolis for "possible assistance" and is monitoring the situation.

Staff writers Jennifer Bjorhus and Dan Browning contributed to this report.

Alex Chhith • 612-673-4759