WADENA – A major fire broke out and destroyed storage sheds at Minnesota Valley Irrigation on Memorial Day afternoon.
Firefighters from across the Wadena area have been working together to surround the blaze and put out the fires since the first crews were dispatched at 2:55 p.m. The fires were intense and difficult to control as there were clearly large sources fuel combustion in some of the buildings. .
Early on, the Wadena Fire Department posted a message on Facebook asking people to stay away, shelter in place, or come to the Wadena-Deer Creek FEMA Gym Vault. they needed to get rid of the smoke rising westward over Wadena. There were concerns that hazardous waste was burning inside the facility. The Minnesota State Highway Patrol was at intersections up to Verndale, directing traffic away from Wadena during the heat of the fire.
The fire remained in the storage area on the east side of the property. The main office buildings out front seemed untouched.
The destroyed building was a department store used by Minnesota Valley Irrigation for equipment storage and operations.
Upon arrival, firefighters observed heavy fire coming from the south side of the building. Due to the size of the building, multiple agencies were called upon to assist each other. Due to the storage of chemicals for agricultural purposes, the town of Wadena was under temporary shelter in place as a precaution. Around 6 p.m., firefighters were temporarily evacuated from the scene due to an incoming tornado warning and took shelter at the Wadena County Courthouse. In less than 30 minutes, the firefighters were able to return to the scene. The building was declared a total loss.
Bertha, Bluffton, Deer Creek, Hewitt, Menahga, Sebeka, Staples and Verndale Fire Departments responded to assist the Wadena Fire Department. The Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office was on the scene and the cause of the fire is being investigated.
In addition to the multiple fire departments that responded, Wadena Police Department, Verndale Police Department, Wadena County Sheriff’s Office, Wadena County Emergency Management, Health Care Ambulance Tri-County Health, Wadena Public Works, and Wadena County Highway Department. Firefighters remained at the scene until around 8 p.m.
Tri-County health care personnel responded to the dangerous incident knowing that extreme weather conditions were also part of the scenario. Staff were warned of the fire and the possibility of chemical gases approaching the hospital and clinic. Additionally, the severe weather approaching the town of Wadena brought high winds, heavy rain, hail and the possibility of tornadoes.
Around 3 p.m., EMS personnel were dispatched to assist with the fire. EMS quickly set up operations and began rehab, a procedure in which EMS supports firefighters by providing first aid, hydration and a cool place to recover from the firefighting, according to a statement. release from Tri-County Health Care. Midway through operations, the storm hit prompting all EMS personnel to take shelter.
At Wadena Hospital, Incident Command Operations have been launched with Teresa Johnson, Director of Human Resources, assuming the role of Incident Commander. She and several members of administration, EMS and medical staff evacuated patients to designated safe areas within the facility. This process completed successfully
Due to the threat of chemical gas entering the facility, emergency maintenance procedures were also initiated. Maintenance and the on-call engineer quickly deactivate the ventilation system to stop the spread of gases. This process was uneventful and all observations indicate that chemical gas did not enter the facility.
“You couldn’t write a script like this,” remarked emergency management coordinator Tom Krueger. Krueger is the Incident Command Mobilization Manager at Tri-County Health Care. He is also responsible for training personnel to handle scenarios such as extreme weather conditions and structural fires.
“Everyone did a fantastic job and everything went according to plan, even with the growing problems in the area,” explained Krueger.
Shortly after the storm passed, staff received a clear message. Evacuation orders were lifted and patients were returned to their rooms. Once the gas threat had passed, the ventilation system was reactivated and normal operations resumed.