Sprinkler, Training Saved North Dakota Grain Elevator

A good sprinkler system and continuous training saved Thompson (N.D.) Farmers Elevator from burning to the ground Friday, said Tom Corwin, Thompson Assistant Fire Chief.

After discovering the fire at about 3 p.m., elevator employees quickly responded to the emergency by shutting down machinery and closing doors to prevent the strong winds from fueling the blaze, Corwin said.

"We've trained with them dozens of times," Corwin said. "The training paid off."

No one was injured.

Damage to the structure was minimal, thanks to fire department's proximity to the elevator, less than one-half mile away, and the support of other fire departments in the area who provided hundreds of gallons of water, Corwin said.

Joe Simon, district fire chief, said there were two fire hydrants near the elevator, but the Grand Forks Water Trail District removed them some time ago.

The grain was not damaged, Corwin said.

The fire started on the south end of the building on the top 4 feet to 6 feet of the elevator's pitched roof. Fire fighters had to work their way through two annexes to get to the burning ceiling, 122 feet above the ground, Simon said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, he said.

Corwin, who was one of the firefighters combating the blaze, said he was momentarily trapped in a 20-inch opening, which was the only passage to the engulfed roof top.

"I had to get one arm out first and then the other one and push myself up until my air pack on my back was free," Corwin said.

The elevator was shut down, but it is expected to reopen soon, Simon said.