SOUTH TOLEDO -- Crews have knocked down the flames from a massive fire in one of the grain elevators along the Maumee River in south Toledo. An explosion hit the Cargill grain elevator on Edwin Drive near Kuhlman just before 4:00 which lit a fire in a conveyor belt that could be seen for miles. After deciding their strategy, firefighters started putting firefighting foam on the fire just before 6:00pm.
Toledo firefighters are expected to stay on the scene through the evening. At the height of the fire, crews had a Life Flight helicopter on standby, and foam units from the 180th Fighter Wing at Toledo Express Airport and the BP Refinery in east Toledo deployed at the scene. The Coast Guard also sent personnel to watch the river by the fire scene.
The elevator is on the Maumee River near Interstate 75, a heavily traveled route through the city. It is surrounded by fields and abandoned warehouses. It's owned by Cargill, but operated by The Andersons under a lease agreement.
No one knows what caused the explosion, which collapsed one of the grain silos. Video from the scene showed obvious damage, twisted metal, and flames deep in the heart of the building. At least two silos had their tops blown off, and a smaller building, part of the Kuhlman complex next to the silo, also caved in.
Speaking from company headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Cargill spokesman Bill Brady told News 11 that the silo contained corn and wheat, and the fire was in the conveyor belt system inside the elevator complex. Brady says the grain elevator complex had been closed for the holiday weekend, and no one was thought to be inside. He called it a "relatively safe facility" with several firewall structures inside for built-in protection.
News 11 Chief Meteorologist Robert Shiels said the winds were blowing from the WNW at 15-20 miles per hour when the fire broke out. That blew the smoke to the southeast over Perrysburg and Rossford.
Toledo Fire Chief Mike Bell said crews used firefighting foam because it is lighter than water, and helped smother the dust. Bell also said water would stir up more dust, and the water pressure could have damaged the building even more. Bell said the biggest challenge in the fire was the fact that crews could not get in to fight the flames right away.
Interstate 75 was closed in both directions by the fire. At the height of the incident, traffic was backed up from the scene of the fire all the way to the Interstate 475 split several miles away. Rutherford said some people were stuck on the highway for almost two hours. Rutherford says the incident commander gave the go-ahead to reopen the road around 7:40pm.
The Coast Guard had closed the Maumee River to boat traffic, but re-opened the river around the same time. The Rossford Municipal Marina was closed for the evening while the fire was being fought.
People all over the east side of the city report hearing and feeling the explosion. Angelina Gomez was in her house near the elevator when she heard the explosion. "It felt like a car hit our house," she said. The explosion was so loud she was surprised it didn't blow out her windows, she said. Gomez ran outside and saw smoke pouring from the top of the grain elevator. Then it started to spread down lower, she said.
Despite a traffic mess that spread through the surface streets of the city, the Toledo Mud Hens game started as scheduled at 7:00, and Rally on the River went on as scheduled.
On the Web:
The Andersons: http://www.andersonsinc.com/