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Firefighters contend with brutal cold to fight machine shed fire near Sibley

Pumps froze up, and firefighters got minor cases of frostbite, treated on the scene by ambulance personnel. And about 2,000 linear feet of 3-inch hose turned to solid ice and had to be hauled away.

A fire destroyed a machine shed shop early Thursday morning Dec. 22, 2022, near Sibley, Iowa, as firefighters battled the harsh cold and bitter winds along with the flames.
A fire destroyed a machine shed shop early Thursday morning Dec. 22, 2022, near Sibley, Iowa, as firefighters battled the harsh cold and bitter winds along with the flames.
Submitted photo
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SIBLEY, Iowa — Firefighters battling a blaze at a machine shop early Thursday morning near Sibley were also forced to contend with brutally cold temperatures that caused frostbite and turned hoses to unmanageable bricks

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Total snow accumulations of 2 to 5 inches are expected.

Ice covered firefighting equipment and hampered efforts to halt the blaze at Bosma Poultry Group near Sibley, Iowa, on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022.
Ice covered firefighting equipment and hampered efforts to halt the blaze at Bosma Poultry Group near Sibley, Iowa, on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022.
Submitted photo

“When the tips of your fingers turn black, that’s not a good sign,” said Sibley Fire Chief Ken Huls. “(Dealing with weather)’s just part of the job, and you can only dress so warm. The wind and the temperature will just blow right through you.”

About 2:50 a.m., the Sibley Fire Department was called to the scene of a truck fire at Bosma Poultry Group, located at the corner of Pierce Avenue and Ag Street near Sibley. An employee there had discovered a semi tractor on fire, and called 911, using an extinguisher to try to halt the flames. A deputy with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office joined the effort with another extinguisher, but the fire spread throughout the whole shop and by the time firefighters arrived, the building was already almost a total loss — including the 12 semi tractors and other equipment inside.

Most likely, the fire was caused by an electrical issue on one of the trucks, Huls said.

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Ashton Fire Department, Little Rock Fire Department, Ocheyedan Fire Department and the Sheldon Fire Department all came to give mutual aid, and about 30 or 35 firefighters worked to knock down the fire.

It was the most difficult time of the day, and the wind chill was 50 degrees below zero.

A fire destroyed a large shed belonging to Bosma Poultry Group on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, near Sibley, Iowa.
A fire destroyed a large shed belonging to Bosma Poultry Group on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, near Sibley, Iowa.
Kari Lucin / The Globe

“What happens when water hits that air? It freezes immediately,” Huls said.

Pumps froze up, and firefighters got minor cases of frostbite, treated on the scene by ambulance personnel. And about 2,000 linear feet of 3-inch hose turned to solid ice and had to be hauled away, where it now rests in the Cenex Co-op’s car bays thawing out.

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Such a forecast would be nearly impossible because wind over land is much more turbulent than wind over water.
Arctic air moves into the region
Some people believe that wind chill is just hype and that only the temperature and wind speed should be reported.

“It was probably the most extreme conditions I’ve ever had in my 27 years of being a fireman,” Huls said. “That’s what happens when you volunteer, that’s part of our job. Somebody’s gotta do it — it ain’t gonna put itself out.”

Firefighters were on the scene until 8:15 or 8:30 a.m., and were forced into defensive mode immediately, unable to go into the building due to the danger of it collapsing, the fire chief explained. A wall remained standing, keeping the fire from spreading to any nearby buildings, but the machine shed and its contents were a total loss — one Huls estimated at $3 million to $4 million.

The firefighters weren’t on the scene alone, however, and the community rallied around them as they battled the ice and the flames. Osceola County brought out four ambulances so firefighters had a place to warm up enough to continue working on the fire. Truck stops Jackrabbit Junction and Kwik Star provided donuts and hot beverages, and Jackrabbit invited firefighters into its cafeteria to warm up too. EMTs, deputies, Sibley Utilities, and N&M Power all came to help, as did the Sibley Firefighters Women’s Auxiliary.

“We had a lot of people out there freezing their tuckuses,” Huls said.

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He advised people to be extra careful in order to avoid starting fires, using proper outlets for space heaters and keeping other items away from them, such as blankets. Kerosene heaters need to be vented properly, and furnace vents need to be kept clear of snow.

“People want to get warm and they’ll go to extremes to do it,” the fire chief added.

Water froze in the hoses firefighters used to contend with the fire at Bosma Poultry Group near Sibley, Iowa, on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, and had to be brought indoors to thaw afterward.
Water froze in the hoses firefighters used to contend with the fire at Bosma Poultry Group near Sibley, Iowa, on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, and had to be brought indoors to thaw afterward.
Submitted photo

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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