HOLLOWAY -- Firefighters from eight different departments extinguished a fire Thursday at the Western Consolidated Cooperative's grain handling facility in Holloway and prevented it from spreading to a large, grain storage facility.
Jet black smoke was visible as far away as Starbuck as the fire took hold in a grain handling system at the facility around 8 p.m.
Three contract workers were treated for smoke inhalation at an area hospital and later released, according to information from West-Con.
Fire fighters battled the blaze for about 3½ hours, although an Appleton Fire Department unit remained through the night to guard against a possible flare up.
The fire appears to have started in a dust suppression system used in the grain handling area where trucks empty their loads, according to Jeff Gades, first assistant chief with the Appleton Fire Department.
The Appleton firefighters were among the first on the scene. They called for assistance on their way to the blaze.
Firefighters were concerned about the potential for a large blaze due to the large volumes of grain handled and stored at the site, as well as fertilizer and farm chemicals stored in separate structures on the grounds of the cooperative's complex.
The fire was confined largely to the pit area of the grain unloading system. Equipment such as belts and other flammable materials caught fire along with mineral oil used for dust suppression.
The primary concern was to keep the fire from spreading to grain storage at the site, noted the assistant fire chief.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, according to West-Con. Early suspicion is that sparks possibly associated with a construction project occurring at the site ignited the mineral oil used in the dust suppression system. Firefighters were told that the suppression system holds up to 4,000 gallons of oil.
It's estimated that 50 or more firefighters from Appleton, Benson, Clontarf, Danvers, DeGraf, Milan, Kerkhoven and Murdock responded. Also responding were ambulance, first responder units and law enforcement units from the area.
West-Con is reporting that damage appears to be minimal as a result of the blaze.
It is also reporting that business is continuing as normal with the grain department accepting grain to both lanes 1 and 2 at the complex.