Brewster settles down after tumultuous nightMnSP: No explosion occured, no injuries resulted from blaze
BREWSTER — By Sunday morning, all appeared to be back to normal in the community of Brewster.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
BREWSTER — By Sunday morning, all appeared to be back to normal in the community of Brewster. There was little activity on the town’s streets — its residents probably catching up on their sleep after being evacuated the night before — and the only signs that something abnormal had occurred were a single guard posted at the entry to the Minnesota Soybean Processors plant and the angry scorch marks on two large tanks visible from Minnesota 60.
But mere hours before, the personnel and emergency vehicles from more than 20 fire and law enforcement agencies representing three counties in Minnesota and one Iowa county took over the town; Minnesota 60 and the rail line that runs through the town were closed to traffic; and local residents were evacuated out of harm’s way — all in response to a fire at MnSP.
MnSP General Manager Richard Galloway flew in on Sunday to assess the damage from the fire, but a company representative said he would not be commenting on the situation and instead issued a press release.
“At approximately 9:55 p.m. Sunday evening, alert employees observed smoke in a soybean oil and biodiesel loading area on the property and immediately informed the Brewster Fire Department of an emergency situation,” the release details. “Time-coded security films of the area clearly show that smoke appeared just a few minutes prior to the emergency notification. The Brewster Fire Department responded in a timely and professional manner, and they were assisted by a number of area fire departments and law enforcement agencies to secure the area and to address the emergency. Minnesota Soybean Processors is grateful for their successful execution of emergency measures.
“The fire was limited to an area involved exclusively with the storage of and loading out of finished soybean oil and soy biodiesel. No explosion occurred, and no injuries resulted. The involved area was well away from production facilities and well away from the grain elevator portion of the facility. Damage was limited to soybean oil and biodiesel load-out equipment, to the insulation on a biodiesel storage tank and to a soybean oil storage tank.”
MnSP officials also noted that, because it was a holiday weekend, only six employees were on site, no load-out activity was under way, and no employees were in the area of the fire. The processing plant and biodiesel plant were shut down, and the employees were evacuated from the work areas.
It is anticipated that production at MnSP will resume later this week, and no personnel layoffs are expected.
Due to the potentially volatile nature of the materials at the MnSP plant, the chief and assistant chief of the Brewster Fire Department made the decision to evacuate the residents of Brewster and the surrounding area and requested mutual aid from emergency services personnel throughout the area.
“We apologize for the inconvenience suffered by the residents, but their safety is of paramount importance to Minnesota Soybean Processors and to officials of the local fire department,” concludes the MnSP statement.
Brewster Mayor Randy Schmitz was pleased with the speedy resolution of the emergency situation and how his town’s residents and area rescue personnel responded to something with the potential for a much more disastrous outcome.
“It was nice to see all these fire departments from places as far away as Milford show up, and when they got there, they were really ready to go,” Schmitz said on Monday afternoon. “Somebody this morning said, ‘Now we’ve had a run through if it ever happens again.’ Hopefully, it never does.”
Schmitz was at home when the fire alarm was sounded at about 10 p.m. Saturday. His family evacuated with the rest of the town, but as mayor he went to the command headquarters at the Brewster Fire Hall and was impressed by all he witnessed.
“I could listen to (the firefighters) on the radio, and it sounded like they were just putting out a grass fire, calm as they were,” he said. “They got it knocked down so quick, and it could have turned bad awfully fast.”
Particularly praising the efforts of Brewster Fire Chief John Garmer and Assistant Chief Dave McNab, Schmitz expressed his gratitude to everyone who assisted in keeping his community safe.
“Thanks to all the communities, as little or as big as their part was,” he said. “It was good knowing we had people there if we needed them.”
According to the Nobles County Emergency Management office, the cause of the fire is currently under investigation by the Brewster Fire Department, Nobles County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division in conjunction with MnSP. The determination of the cause will continue throughout the week, and more information will be released pending progression of the investigation.