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Published September 14, 2011, 10:48 AM

Fire hits eastern ND elevator

FOREST RIVER, N.D. — A fire that started late Tuesday afternoon in the Forest River Farmers Elevator in the small Walsh County town was being fought by dozens of firefighters from several departments.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald

FOREST RIVER, N.D. — A fire that started late Tuesday afternoon in the Forest River Farmers Elevator in the small Walsh County town was being fought by dozens of firefighters from several departments.

No one has been injured, said Greg Paschke, president of the farmer-owned cooperative.

Forest River has about 125 people and is about 35 miles northwest of Grand Forks, just north of the Grand Forks County line.

From his farm a mile west of town, Paschke had just noticed smoke rising over Forest River when Manager Greg Novak reached him by phone.

It was shortly before 5 p.m., Tuesday, and the news was grim.

The elevator, filled with grain, was burning down.

Nobody was hurt, and there were no explosions, Paschke said. It’s too early to know where or why the fire started, he said.

Nobody had to be evacuated, although the elevator is on the northwest corner of town and the wind was from the northwest.

“I know they are hosing down some roofs,” Paschke said about 7:30 p.m.

Forest River Bean Co., is downwind next door. “But I think they are OK,” he said.

The Farmers Elevator has an old wooden “house,” that dates back decades as well as a wooden annex, plus newer steel bins, including some that had been under construction when the fire started.

New bins

The new bins would add 250,000 bushels of capacity to the 675,000 bushels of bin space the elevator already had, Paschke said.

“It’s too early to tell,” the extent of the fire damage to the steel bins or to the rail tracks, he said.

The elevator is on both BNSF rail line as well as the Canadian Pacific line.

The elevator handles wheat, barley, oil sunseeds and soybeans. It also deals in fertilizers, dry as well as anhydrous ammonia, but those tanks, as well as petroleum products, are well away from the fire, Paschke said.

The unusually drawn-out grain harvest this year means there still is some wheat coming in, as well as a few loads of early soybeans coming off fields from member farmers of the cooperative, Paschke said. The co-op has insurance, he said.

Even by 7:30 p.m., the wind continued to thwart fire fighters.

“It’s pretty brisk and that’s not helping matters,” Paschke said.

By about 8 p.m., Dale Korynta, fire chief in Forest River, said, “It’s pretty much to the ground.”

Fire departments from surrounding communities, including Gilby, Minto, Grafton and Grand Forks Air Force Base responded to help the Forest River department.

“We’re hauling (water) from a distance,” Paschke said. “We just have a little rural fire department in town.”

The fire no doubt will need watching all night, he said.

It caught the local fire department at a bad time. The fire chief, Korynta, is laid up with a “busted rib,” he said. “So, I can’t help.”

The assistant chief recently moved away, so the volunteer fire fighters battled the blaze without formal leadership, Korynta said.

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