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Boxholm cooperative dryer explosion sends two to hospital

By Staff | Nov 16, 2009

Firefighters and rescue workers from Ogden, Pilot Mound, Boone County and Boxholm responded to the West Central Cooperative elevator dryer fire Monday morning in Boxholm. As corn was pulled out of the dryer at the bottom, streams of water put out smoldering kernels, keeping the fire from spreading.

BOXHOLM – A “small explosion” at the West Central Cooperative in Boxholm sent two men to the hospital Monday morning.

Firefighters and rescue workers responding to the scene contained the corn fire that started shortly before 9 a.m. and left the scene by noon, said officials of the Cooperative.

One of two injured workers taken to area medical facilities was treated and released; the other taken by helicopter to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines.

Sarah Dorman, a spokesman for the Cooperative’s main office in Ralston, said the company reopened Wednesday morning. Although the dryer was still out of commission, the facility was taking both wet and dry corn.

The airlifted employee was still under medical observation on Wednesday, Dorman said.

The top section of the corn dryer at the West Central Cooperative in Boxholm caught fire Monday morning. While the fire did not blow apart the dryer, it charred the outside and bent the bracing.

West Central declined to identify either of the einjured employees.

The Boxholm Fire Department, Pilot Mound Fire Department, Ogden First Responders, Ogden Police Department, Boone County Sheriff’s Department and Boone County Emergency Management all responded to the scene, called a “small explosion” by Dorman.

The elevator itself was not affected by the explosion or ensuing fire, which started in the top of the corn dryer.

“There is about 1,500 bushels of corn in the dryer,” said Dave Morlan of Boone County Emergency Management. “All this wet corn seems to have made it worse.”

He said there have been three dryer fires on private property this fall. “Dryer fires are not unusual, but this year seems to be a greater number.”

A fire broke out shortly before 9 a.m. Monday in the corn dryer at the West Central Cooperative in Boxholm. Corn was pulled from the dryer at the bottom, and firefighters shot water into the dryer to keep any smoldering corn from spreading the flames. The dryer was thought to hold about 1,500 bushels of corn.

Morlan said the problem began in the top part of the dryer, likely as the thick, black smoke that enveloped most of the town in the morning.

“Once you start pulling the grain out and opening it up, the fire takes over,” he said. “That’s about the only way you can get a dryer fire out – to empty it, get the corn away and cool it off.”

Corn is pumped into the dryer from above until the dryer is full, Morlan said. “Hot air is blown in, and the dry corn is pulled out the bottom. The corn should be at 15 percent moisture to store well in the elevator.”

Because the fall has been so wet, much of the corn brought to the elevator must be put through the dryer.

It is unknown at this time what will happen to the charred corn removed from the dryer, Dorman said.

A few blocks south of the elevator, Kenny Peterson, a retired Boxholm-area farmer, stepped out of a coffee shop and was surprised at what he found.

“I came out, and I couldn’t see,” he said. “I looked down at the elevator, and it was all dark. They had the highway blocked off.”

(Larry Kershner, of the Farm News, contributed to this article.)

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141.

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