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POET fire possibly a dust explosion

BINGHAM LAKE -- Although no official report has been issued by the state or POET, Windom Assistant Fire Chief Dan Ortmann stated Monday a preliminary cause of Friday's fire at the POET Biorefining plant in Bingham Lake was possibly a grain dust explosion in one of the dryers.

"We got dispatched to an explosion at the POET plant, and upon arrival we found one injured person," Ortmann said. "The fire was basically out when we arrived."

Cottonwood County Sheriff Jason Purrington said one male was injured in the fire.

The injured person worked for Fulda Electric, he said, and was taken to the hospital in Windom, then airlifted from there.

The fire occurred at approximately 2:20 p.m. Friday during an upgrade to the plant, according to POET Media Relations Specialist Matt Merritt.

"Something triggered a fire in the DDGS dryer area," Merritt wrote in a prepared statement via email. "A contractor who was working on the upgrade was injured before the deluge system brought the fire under control."

Ortmann said the injured person was already out of the building when the fire department arrived.

"We entered the building as a precaution to see if any fire remained, but there wasn't any," he stated. "Structure-wise, things were sound. Our role was pretty limited."

POET personnel responded quickly to attend the injured man "in accordance with safety training," Merritt stated.

Personnel at the plant cooperated with the local fire department, he added.

"We are conducting an internal investigation to determine the cause of the incident and will do our best to ensure that it does not happen again," he concluded. "As far as we can tell at this time, safety procedures were followed."

Several years ago, a dust explosion in a vent occurred at the plant, according to Purrington.

That explosion did not injure anyone, but blew the side off one of the outside vents, he said.

POET's initial concern, Merritt said, was with the injured worker.

As of Monday morning, he wrote, POET had nothing further to report.

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