Fire engulfs Hanley Falls Elevator
A Hanley Falls grain elevator built in the late 1950s caught fire early Friday morning and many of the town’s residents were evacuated for safety precautions.
Eleven local fire departments battled the blaze in the early morning hours.
“This was a typical wood-cribbed storage elevator,” said Scott Dubbelde, the General Manager of Farmers Cooperative Elevator in Hanley Falls since 1992.
“It was still used part-time during the year for storage and grain cleaning.”
The elevator, which was reportedly about “half full of corn, beans and oats” was completely lost.
An estimate of the damages was not available.
“You could see the flames for quite a ways,” said Dubbelde.
“The fire drew a lot of attention.”
The Yellow Medicine Sheriff’s Department reported that a Burlington Northern-Sioux Falls (BNSF) train crew first spotted the fire in the former Farmer Cooperative Elevator on the west edge of town around 4:30 a.m.
The BNSF then notified the Hanley Falls Fire Department, which paged assistance from fire departments in Canby, Clarkfield, Cottonwood, Echo, Granite Falls, Marshall, Montevideo, Porter, St. Leo and Wood Lake.
High winds were blowing large burning embers toward the residential area, and law enforcement personnel evacuated residents in homes and apartments as far away as three blocks from the elevator around 5 a.m.
Ambulances from Cottonwood and Granite Falls were also on hand to assist. Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) personnel assisted the Granite Falls Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol with controlling traffic in that area.
The Yellow Medicine County Sheriff’s Department reported that no one sustained any injuries and there was no damage to any other buildings in town other than the elevator.
The fire departments worked together to put out the fire. Gregorson’s Salvage of Waubay, SD was then brought in to take down the remainder of the elevator and haul it away.
“I was just amazed at how well the fire departments all worked together,” said Dubbelde.
“And the ambulance and rescue crews all helped control the traffic and brought doughnuts and coffee and water for everyone. And the Legion served lunch for all the people."
“Unfortunately, we let these people slip to the back of our minds until they are needed. And then they sure come to the forefront of our minds when we see how valuable they all are. I just can’t thank them all enough.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Dubbelde said it was too early to think about when and how Farmers Cooperative Elevator will proceed following the fire.
“Number one with us is always safety,” he said. “We want to get this to a manageable state, get it all cleaned up, and then we can talk about the future.”
The current Farmers Cooperative Elevator was built by the board members one-half mile south of town in 1980, but offices remained in the old elevator up until 10 years ago.