Fire at ag storage led to community evacuation

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A fire broke out at an agricultural shop and storage facility located at the Northwood Municipal Airport in Northwood, Iowa, and at least one small explosion occurred last Thursday morning. The fire was minor enough that it was not a widespread national media incident.

To be cautious, authorities issued an evacuation order for the nearby town of Northwood, about four miles south of the Minnesota border. The town has less than 2,000 residents. The local and state media reports were that not all the Northwood residents evacuated because it was not a mandatory evacuation. The original concern was that the fire and fumes might have been connected to sulfuric acid and other agricultural chemicals. First responder procedures were followed for this or any type of industrial fire—quickly determining it was appropriate to suggest an evacuation of people within a radius of the incident.

Reports were that four people were treated at the nearest hospital for minor concerns related to fumes, but no injuries were reported from the fire. Residents were allowed to return home starting around 3 p.m., authorities reported.

The Agribusiness Association of Iowa through CEO Joel Brinkmeyer issued information to the Agricultural Retailers Association. The AAI information matched media reports about the incident.

The facility that erupted in fire was owned by Farmers Feed & Grain Co, with headquarters in Riceville, Iowa. The building was primarily used for equipment storage, and the report was that three trucks and a forklift were stored in the shop/storage building. It was not a primary chemical or fertilizer storage building, although one was nearby. Speculation was that the small explosions were related to the truck gasoline or forklift propane. A very small amount of fertilizer was in the fire destroyed building, according to media reports.

The cause of fire had not been announced as of Monday morning. There has been extensive state investigation underway since the fire was distinguished. It was basically a “property fire.”

Steve Eastman, manager of the Farmers Feed & Grain Co., was quoted as complimenting the emergency responders on doing an excellent job, including informing local residents of the situation. About 16 firefighters came from Northwood and more from surrounding communities.

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