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Cleanup begins at site of R.D. Offutt potato fire, investigation completed

Cleanup has begun where an R.D. Offutt Co. potato warehouse once stood northwest of Perham. The warehouse burned down in a fire on Jan. 21 and 22. These potatoes now must be hauled to Gwinner, N.D. for disposal, said Perham Fire Chief Mark Schmidt.

Investigators have finished their work at what used to be an R.D. Offutt Co. potato warehouse, located northwest of Perham.

The fire, which began on Jan. 21, was determined to be of an “undeterminable cause,” said Perham Fire Department’s chief, Mark Schmidt in a recent conversation with the Focus.

Now, it is time for the cleanup process to begin.

Insulation used when the warehouse was built contained some level of asbestos, said Schmidt. He said, because of the likely contamination, piles of potatoes will need to be transported Gwinner, N.D. for disposal.

Losses from the potatoes, structure and other equipment was estimated to add up to approximately $4.5 million dollars. No employees or firefighters were injured during the incident, but the building was a total loss.

All 17 fire departments from Otter Tail County responded to the fire, along with three crews from Becker County. This made for a Perham Fire District record of 20 departments and 130 firefighters. Almost 1.2 million gallons of water were used in the fight, which went on for 17 hours.