A steel building in North Newton burst into flames on Thursday afternoon — the location of the MKC grain elevator in North Newton.

Firefighters responded at about 4 p.m. Thursday to the fire, finding plumes of black smoke and a hot fire within a metal building. They spent about three hours trying to get the fire under control before finally getting the fire out at 4 a.m. Friday. 

At about 4 p.m. Old 81 Highway has been reopened for traffic, while Main St. is still closed as fire crews work to extinguish the blaze. At about 5:30 p.m. Old 81, also known as Hesston Road, was closed for a second time. Concerns for public safety also led to he clearing of parking lots across the street where people had gathered to watch the fire.

The building that caught fire is owned by MKC, but had been leased out to a recycling company, according to MKC Communication Specialist Nichole Gouldie.

"They have it filled with some bags of plastics and paper, where the fire got started," Gouldie said.

The recyclable items are baled and compressed, which leads to plumes of black smoke.

The fire was called into 911 by MKC employees, who are all unharmed.

"Our location is open right now," Gouldie said.