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Dual blasts rock elevators

NEW ULM, SLEEPY EYE — Around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, an explosion shook downtown New Ulm. A plume of dust was visible for blocks.

The source of the explosion was the Farmers Cooperative of Hanska (FCH) elevator at 200 N. Water St.

The explosion destroyed half of the Welcome to New Ulm sign atop the elevator and twisted the metal walkways and gantries along with the structure. Some debris fell to the ground and a small fire formed near the base of the elevator.

At least one man was injured, sustaining burns. Before the paramedic or fire department arrived, individuals on site were pouring water on the man. He was later taken from the scene by ambulance.

Police quickly blocked off a section of Front Street and Water Street from traffic as New Ulm Fire Department extinguished the fire. Several onlookers watched from a safe distance. Many had felt or heard the explosion.

Few flames were visible from the traffic barrier. The fire was extinguished within an hour. A drone flew over the elevator to inspect for additional hotspots.

The cause of the FCH explosion is unknown at this time. New Ulm Fire Department will issue a new release on the fire Wednesday.

This was the second grain elevator explosion reported in Brown County within 14 hours. An explosion at the Christensen Farms elevator near Sleepy Eye occurred 14 hours earlier.

Christensen Farms blast

Fire departments from Sleepy Eye, Springfield, Comfrey and New Ulm responded to a Christensen Farms feed mill explosion early Tuesday morning.

A fire started at the facility around 4:38 a.m. according to Christensen Farms Communication Manager Amber Portner said.

Second Assistant Sleepy Eye Fire Chief Jeff Zinniel said the fire call came in about about 4:45 a.m. Tuesday.

“An explosion in the southeast elevator blew the roof off. There was a fire in the bottom of it when we arrived,” Zinniel said.

“It pretty much blew itself right out. It didn’t burn long. It exploded, setting an alarm off. Parts of other grain silos were damaged,” said Zinniel.

“We hauled some water, but not a whole lot,” Zinniel added. “We foamed what was on fire, debris burning in the bottom of the silo.”

Brown County Sheriff’s Office deputies quickly closed roads leading to Christensen Farms. About a dozen fire trucks including two ladder trucks responded to the call.

Drones were utilized to monitor the feed mill for hot spots to help firefighters better target the fire.

Sleepy Eye firefighters remained on the scene late Tuesday morning, waiting for a State Fire Marshall representative to arrive at the scene to begin an investigation.

Portner said the company was thankful for the support of firefighters and thankful there were no injuries from the fire.

The facility serves as feed mill for many farms in Minnesota. Christensen is currently working with other farms and coops to make sure customers feed supply will not be interrupted.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Office and Sleepy Eye Police assisted at the scene.

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