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A thankful outcome

Firefighters from at least five towns responded to a fire at Minnesota Soybean Processors Tuesday night in Brewster. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)1 / 3
An automatic sprinkler on top of the prep building sprays water at the scene. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)2 / 3
(Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)3 / 3

BREWSTER -- Minnesota Soybean Processors (MnSP) in Brewster had returned to normal operations in soybean receiving and soybean meal loading Wednesday afternoon, following a fire late Tuesday night at the facility.

According to a press release issued Wednesday by MnSP, the fire was detected in the air system in the soybean preparation area of the plant.

The Brewster Fire Department was paged to the scene at 10 p.m. Tuesday, with calls for mutual aid requested shortly thereafter for Worthington, Round Lake, Heron Lake and Okabena fire departments. The Worthington Ambulance was also called to be on stand-by.

By approximately 10:30 p.m., the aerial truck could be seen from the east side of the plant, as firefighters worked both inside and outside the facility.

"It is thought that smoldering debris that had gone undetected during a plant start-up, after a brief scheduled maintenance shutdown, flamed up when air systems were activated," the release states. No injuries resulted from the fire, and there was no damage to the equipment.

At the fire hall in Brewster late Tuesday night, MnSP board member Ron Obermoller knew few details of the fire.

He said the fire was reported on the seventh floor of the prep building. The building houses the soybean cleaning and soybean meal grinding operations.

"Everything to prepare the beans for extraction and the meal is prepped to be shipped out (occurs in the building)," Obermoller said.

A few firefighters were at the hall, listening to chatter on the law enforcement scanners and waiting for more word on the situation Tuesday night.

Worthington Fire Chief Rick Von Holdt, who was among those at the fire hall, said the aerial, pumper and ladder trucks from Worthington responded to the scene -- along with about a dozen firefighters from the local department.

John Garmer, Brewster Fire Chief, said there were approximately 35 firefighters that responded from the multiple agencies.

With the fire concentrated in the duct work, Garmer said one of the biggest challenges was just accessing the flames and covering multiple levels of the facility. He said firefighters had to climb several flights of stairs, which was one of the most grueling tasks in the response.

"It was a pretty safe scene," Garmer said.

Tuesday night's fire at MnSP was the second in six months that drew multiple fire departments to the scene. On May 23, more than 20 fire and law enforcement departments, from three counties in Minnesota and one county in Iowa, responded to a late-night blaze at the facility. In that fire, 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.

Biodiesel operations at the facility were not affected by Tuesday night's incident.

MnSP is a 2,300-plus member cooperative operating a soybean processing and soy methyl ester plant. The company employs approximately 80 people, with an annual payroll of approximately $3.5 million. The plant processes approximately 35 million bushels of locally grown soybeans each year.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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