Weather Forecast


Area fire departments battle blazes

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Worthington, Bigelow and Round Lake Fire Departments responded to a fire Saturday night at the Ocheda Dairy on Nobles County 57 south of Worthington. A payloader was used in helping control the blaze.1 / 2
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe A pair of firefighters are silhouetted in front of the smoke and flames as they spray water on a fire at the Ocheda Dairy Saturday night south of Worthington.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- Multiple fire departments spent their Sunday afternoon cleaning trucks and equipment after a busy Saturday afternoon and evening in Nobles and Murray counties.

The first call came in Murray County, when the Fulda Fire Department was paged at approximately 12:20 p.m. to the Colton Fransen farm in Iona Township, near Wirock.

Firefighters arrived on the scene to find approximately 1,000 large round bales of corn stalks ablaze in three different places.

"It was pretty intense when we got there," said Fulda Fire Chief Les Speckmier. "We had to figure out a plan of attack -- it was well engulfed, all three rows."

Mutual aid was quickly sought to help battle the blaze, with Slayton, Iona, Avoca and Wilmont all coming with additional trucks, tankers, grass rigs and manpower.

Speckmier said it is believed the fire was started after Saturday's high winds rekindled sparks in an old tree stump that had been burned a few weeks ago.

"The wind carried (sparks) to the dry stalks and away it went," Speckmier said. Saturday's winds were sustained at more than 20 miles per hour, with gusts up to 43 miles per hour in the Worthington area.

"The wind was brutal -- it was definitely not in our favor," Speckmier added. "It was intense."

The smoke blew right over Fransen's cattle lot, but the 1,000- to 1,100 head of cattle appeared not to be bothered by the excitement. Firefighters were more concerned about smoke and embers blowing toward the farm house.

As with any rural fire, the biggest issue was getting water to the site. Fulda had its pumper, two tankers and grass rig operating, while Slayton brought a pumper, two tankers and a grass rig, Wilmont came with a tanker and grass rig, Iona brought two grass rigs and Avoca brought in a grass rig.

Speckmier said they initially hauled water from Fulda and Iona until a pump could be set up at Lake Corabelle. Water was pumped from the lake for several hours to help battle the blaze.

By 5 p.m. Saturday, crews estimated they had used more than 60,000 gallons of water on the fire, but Speckmier said they didn't have the flames knocked down until about 8 p.m.

"We had a minimum of five or six (tankers) running continuously for several hours," he said. The largest of the tankers could carry about 5,000 gallons of water, with the smaller trucks able to haul about 1,500 gallons at a time.

Approximately 35 firefighters were on the scene of the rural Fulda fire, with many working for more than nine hours.

"It was close to 10 p.m. when we got back to the hall last night," Speckmier said on Sunday. "We just didn't want to get called back at 2, 3 in the morning. We made sure everything was totally soaked."

No buildings were lost in the blaze, and no one was injured.

A neighbor came with a payloader to break up the bales of corn stalk and get them spread out, and an excavator came in to break them up as well.

"I was just real proud of the whole bunch (of firefighters and volunteers)," Speckmier said. "I just want to say a big thank you to everybody that was there and offered services."

The Fulda Fire Department had water on hand for the firefighters, while someone made and brought sandwiches for the crews and the homeowners made supper for those that were still there by 8 p.m.

Bigelow Township blaze intense

The Bigelow Fire Department was paged to a grove and tire fire at Ocheda Dairy, located in Section 15 of Bigelow Township, shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday night. Mutual aid was quickly requested from both Worthington and Round Lake fire departments to help battle that blaze.

Flames from the fire could be seen from several miles away.

Bigelow Fire Chief Paul Hohensee said the fire was believed to have been sparked by some embers that reignited from a trash pile was been burned earlier last week.

"I suppose, due to the high winds, it must have had some coals in it yet and threw sparks over to a pile of tires they used to cover tarps with," Hohensee said. "The tires caught fire and the grove caught fire. The heat was intense."

The tarps were covering silage for the dairy cows, but Hohensee said there was no damage to the feed.

Like the Murray County fire, the Nobles County fire was also greatly hampered by the wind.

Still, Hohensee said they kept the flames for reaching any of the buildings on site. Part of the grove was lost, in addition to the tires.

"Due to all three departments working hard and working together, we got it put out," he said. "No one was hurt and I'm happy there was a good outcome."

Crews were on the scene until about 10:30 p.m., and Hohensee, who lives not far from where the fire occurred, said he checked on the site three times during the night to make sure nothing reignited.

Round Lake, Worthington and Bigelow all had grass rigs on hand during the fire, and Hohensee said it was the responsibility of those firefighters to put out smaller fires that kept igniting in the grove.

All three departments also had tankers on the scene, with water transported from Bigelow and Round Lake.

Eventually they were able to access the Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water hydrant, located just two miles south of Ocheda Dairy.

Hohensee estimated they used between 15,000 and 20,000 gallons of water to fight the blaze.

Helping with water hauling was Dreessen Trucking of Sibley, Iowa, which offered one of its milk trucks to haul water. Dreessen hauls milk for Ocheda Dairy.

A payloader was also used to help push tires out of the way and help push trees down to keep the fire contained.

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

(507) 376-7330