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Thursday morning fire destroys farm building with 4 vehicles, 3 tractors and farm equipment inside

The Worthington Fire Department was dispatched to the scene in Section 10 of Worthington Township at 6:44 a.m. and, according to Chief Pat Shorter, the building was fully engulfed when they arrived.

A fire burns down a quonset building in rural Worthington Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022.
A fire burns down a quonset building in rural Worthington Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022.
Submitted photo
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WORTHINGTON — A quonset-style machine shed and all of its contents were lost in a Thursday morning blaze at the Mark and Anne Wagner farm north of Worthington.

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The Worthington Fire Department was dispatched to the scene in Section 10 of Worthington Township at 6:44 a.m. and, according to Chief Pat Shorter, the building was fully engulfed when they arrived.

Ashley Wagner, daughter of Mark and Anne, discovered the fire when she woke up to some popping noises. She looked out the window to see “just a blaze of orange,” said Anne Wagner. They immediately called 911, but there was no way to salvage anything from the building.

Shorter said the roughly 40- by 60-foot structure was plumb full, with four vehicles, three tractors, a hay baler, several hay rakes, a livestock trailer, above-ground fuel tanks containing gas and diesel, numerous mechanical tools and an air compressor.

“We just got a new pickup about three weeks ago that was in there,” Wagner said. They have no vehicles left to drive, as all were parked inside the building.

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Not only did they lose all of their vehicles, leaving them nothing to drive, Wagner said there were sentimental losses as well. The Wagners reside on her family farm, previously occupied by Larry and Peg Ruesch.

“My dad’s Super H was in there,” she said, adding that his International Cub tractor was also parked inside. Both tractors were owned by her nephew, and all that remains are the frames. The third tractor belonged to the Wagners.

The aftermath of a machine shed burning down in rural Worthington Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022.
The aftermath of a machine shed burning down in rural Worthington Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022.
Kari Lucin / The Globe

“The tires and all of the fuel in the vehicles didn’t help,” Wagner said. “There was plenty of energy for (the fire) to keep burning.”

Firefighters were on the scene until approximately 10:10 a.m.

“We did have an excavator brought in to get the tin off of all of the equipment so we could make sure there wasn’t anything left smoldering,” Shorter said. The structure itself was wood-framed and covered with strong paneled tin, with concrete footings.

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There was damage to some adjacent farm structures, including the chicken barn, which was scorched on one side. Two hoop barns were damaged by floating embers from the blaze, and the grain bins, located right next to the quonset building, may have damage as well. Wagner said they won’t know the extent until spring.

Shorter said the cause of the fire is unknown, and a fire investigator who surveyed the scene Thursday afternoon came to the same preliminary conclusion.

Shorter offered his appreciation to HyVee and Starbucks for donations of coffee, donuts and beverages for the firefighters.

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“It’s great that they do things like that,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Wagners offered their thanks to the firefighters.

“The firefighters were awesome,” she said, adding that some neighbors, as well as her family — an older brother and sister, and her uncle Lenny — all showed up as the fire was extinguished.

While they lost a lot, Wagner said no animals were lost and everyone was OK. For that they are thankful also.

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Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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