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Explosion, fire at ethanol plant in Fergus Falls

A fireman hoses down a section of the dryer sys-tem two hours after an explosion and fire Mon-day at the Green Plains Ethanol Plant a few miles northwest of Fergus Falls. The explosion took place at 4:20 p.m. resulting in a fire that area firefighters were able to contain. There were no injuries. Tom Hintgen/FOCUS

Fire crews responded late Monday afternoon to a fire at an ethanol plant in Fergus Falls.

The Fergus Falls Fire Department received an initial report of a fire in the dryer building of the Green Plains Renewable Energy plant just before 4:30 p.m., said Fergus Falls Fire Chief Mark Hovland.

When firefighters arrived, there was an explosion that tore apart a building, Hovland said. No one was injured in the fire or subsequent explosion.

“We are very fortunate that we were not inside the building at the time,” he said.

There were only seven employees working in the plant at the time of the fire, said General Manager Anthony Hicks. There are usually 20 to 25 employees working during normal hours between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., he said. Most had already gone home for the day.

The plant, which produces corn-based ethanol, corn oil and distiller’s grains, has been in operation since 2008.

Hovland said it is too early to determine the cause and an investigation will follow.

The fire was isolated to one part of the plant and crews were working to cool it Monday night.

Hovland said the Fergus Falls crew monitored the fire throughout the night.

Three other area fire departments assisted and a total of 54 firefighters responded to the fire.

Hicks said Monday it was still too early to determine the extent of the damage, but it was “significant.” He said Green Plains officials will assess the damage and determine how to get the plant up and running again.