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Video may hold clue to Bushmills fire

ATWATER -- Atwater Fire Chief Gerald Schwartz says he will be using video recorded by surveillance cameras at the Bushmills Ethanol Inc. plant of Atwater to assist in the investigation of the cause of a fire on a flare pipe that occured at the plant Saturday morning.

The incident was reported at about 7 a.m. to the Atwater Fire Department as an explosion and fire, said Schwartz.

Because an explosion was initially reported, Schwartz requested assistance from Willmar, Grove City, Kandiyohi, Raymond and Spicer fire departments.

But there was no explosion, according to Schwartz and Bushmills General Manager Erik Osman.

No injuries were reported.

Osmon said the fire was confined to the flare pipe located near the ethanol load-out racks. The flare pipe is used to burn volatile fumes evacuated from empty tanker trucks being loaded with ethanol.

Schwartz said firefighters saw flames rising 100 to 200 feet above the pipe. He said firefighters applied about 15,000 gallons of water to cool nearby pipes and storage tanks, and firefighters allowed the fire to begin to burn itself out.

Schwartz said it took about two minutes with a spray of water to extinguish the fire. Firefighters were on the scene for about three hours.

Schwartz described the damage to the piping as very minor.

"We're just very fortunate it was as small as it was,'' he said. "Thankfully, very minor damage.''

Besides the Bushmills video, Schwartz said he will also try to use video recorded by a camera on a firefighter's helmet in the investigation, but he wasn't sure of the quality of the recording.

Osmon thanked the firefighters for their response and efforts during the fire.

He said the plant was shut down during the fire. "We followed procedures for just such an emergency,'' he said. Operations later resumed and delivery of corn continued, but he said load-out of ethanol would be curtailed until the flare pipe is repaired.

Bushmills is a cooperative of 415 farmers. The dry-milling plant began operation on Dec. 30, 2005, and produces 49 million gallons of ethanol a year, according to the co-op's Web site.

-- David Little

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150