BREWSTER - Approximately 100 firefighters from nine area departments have responded thus far to a fire at the New Vision Cooperative Elevator in Brewster, and after four days on the job, their work isn’t over.
On Wednesday, thermal imaging cameras used by the Brewster Fire Department, as well as drone images taken by New Vision, showed the fire - initially reported in a grain silo containing 15,000 bushels of corn - had migrated to adjacent silos.
Brewster Fire Chief John Garmer said those silos contain an estimated 55,000 bushels of soybeans and another 4,500 bushels of corn.
By Wednesday evening, Gregerson Salvage Inc. of Waubay, S.D., was on scene to assist firefighters and New Vision personnel.
“They specialize in this kind of stuff and they brought in specialty equipment,” Garmer said, adding that once Gregerson arrived on scene, activity really picked up.
Another company, Demag Elevator Works, brought in its crane that had been at nearby Minnesota Soybean Processors, and Garmer said the man basket on the crane is being used to carry supplies and hose up to the top of the elevator.
On Thursday, the work centered on getting the grain removed from the bins and stockpiled on New Vision property near its fertilizer plant.
“We’re in full swing - we have four dump trucks in a rotation, augering (grain into them) and hauling it out of town and dumping it,” Garmer said.
As crews hauled smoldering grain out, firefighters kept a constant flow of water on the grain still inside. Garmer said there was a constant 7,500 gallons of water per hour flowing into the bins all day Thursday.
Tankers from various fire departments are hauling water in from Worthington, Okabena and Heron Lake.
“We’re using some from our water tower, but we don’t want to run it dry and have the town without water,” Garmer said. “We have (water) lines up to the top of the bins, wetting the bins from the top down to settle the dust and to cool the grain.”
As the calls have gone out for tankers, so too has Garmer requested additional firefighters to come in and help in relief. He commended his own unit of Brewster firefighters for their dedication.
“The majority of our firefighters have been out there for the whole scenario,” he said. “Everybody’s been dedicated to this. They might slip home for a couple of hours of sleep and come right back.”
Mutual aid from Lismore, Heron Lake, Worthington, Bigelow and Windom joined Brewster firefighters Thursday.
“I don’t want to exhaust all of our area resources,” Garmer said. “Everybody’s got lives, too.”
Other agencies were also called upon to help haul grain with their dump trucks, including Nobles County Public Works and Behrends Farm & Gravel of Brewster.
Garmer said Thursday afternoon that he anticipates crews will remain on scene for at least another two days and continue to monitor the situation.
Thus far, one firefighter has been injured in the response. A Worthington firefighter sustained a broken rib and bruised shoulder from falling debris after the explosion occurred shortly after 5:40 p.m. Tuesday.
Garmer said the explosion occurred when a hard shelf (comprised of burning grain that melted together) collapsed.
“When that fell, it broke everything loose,” Garmer said.
After four days on scene, Garmer commended area communities - residents and businesses - for their support. Lots of food, water and Powerade has been delivered to the site for the firefighters and responders, he said.