February 5, 2014

Fire Destroys Iron Mountain Data Warehouse in Buenos Aires

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Storage and information management firm Iron Mountain has lost one of its main data centers today, according to the Associated Press. Although it’s unclear how the fire started, it spread quickly and took hours to control. Nine first-responders were killed during the blaze, while two are missing, and seven others are reported injured. By the time the fire was put out, the building “appeared to be ruined” according to news reports.

The data center was located in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. Among the data stored there were several archives containing corporate and central bank records, a potentially huge loss that could have some surprisingly far reaching consequences. Just last month, for instance, the United States Supreme Court decided to hear a case on whether creditors could seek historic bank records from Argentina regarding the country’s default in 2001. Whether or not such files have now been destroyed is unknown.

Such disasters are one of the things data storage companies like Iron Mountain try their hardest to prevent. The Buenos Aires facility even had a team of private firefighters at the facility. That’s in addition to the sprinkler systems, and automatic containment mechanisms designed to stop fires from spreading through the building. All of those precautions, however, were apparently not enough.

Although the main page of their website contains no mention of the fire, Iron Mountain did post a statement to their company news page, writing:

We will investigate the cause of the fire and work closely with local investigators, police and fire authorities to understand what happened. The building was equipped with both fire-detection as well as a sprinkler system.

They also note that they are in the process of contacting customers who may have permanently lost data. Argentina’s Security Secretary Sergio Berni was quoted by the Washington Post as saying that “all of this will end up in court,” although it’s unclear exactly which parties and circumstances he was referring to.

Update 2/6/14: According to local reports, it appears that the storage facility this occurred at was primarily used to store physical, paper records, not digital data. Iron Mountain has yet to release any further statements on the issue, so it’s unclear if there are any digital copies of these records. There is no mention of backup copies however in either Iron Mountain’s original press release, or in any of the statement’s from Argentine officials.

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  1. Cameron Graham

    Good catch – we’ve added some clarification to the story. However, I wouldn’t automatically assume that these records were digitized or backed up in other places. There’s no mention of any redundant copies either in Iron Mountain’s press release or in the statement’s of any officials. 

  2. Cameron Graham

    Good point @TheCastro , although they have placed that blurb under the fold, so to speak, so that you don’t see it when you visit the site without scrolling down or searching for it. Instead, at the top of the page, they’ve included a large weather alert. If they wanted anyone to notice this, they’d switch that placement. 

  3. TheCastro

    News Alert Feb. 5, 2014 — Facility Fire in Argentina A statement from Iron Mountain regarding the fire that occurred at a records storage facility in Buenos Aires this morning, Feb. 5, 2014. Is on their main page you linked to saying there is no mention of the fire.

  4. kalynndarcy

    Your use of the term ‘data center’ in this article is a little misleading. Especially calling it one of their ‘main data centers.’ Data center typically means a room full of computer servers. As mentioned in the AP story you link, the archives were paper documents, so almost certainly everything that was destroyed still exists electronically in their actual data center on some servers. This was hardly their ‘main data center,’ more like a storage place for the paper copies.

  5. Roberto Fernandez Saralegui

    first .. i am a volunteer firefighter (Argentina) and accompany the pain of my brothers.
    The fire was intentional. Expect the skills, legal steps.

    Never a group or meeting places so close to area in question.
    The situation was mishandled.
    a shame

  6. Deryk Barker

    So they had all that data in one and only one location?

    Remind me never to do business with these people.