BREAKING NEWS: Fire sparked at grain elevator

Karen Danner

Two workers reached the ground safely after a spark from a welding torch started a fire Friday at the former Archer Daniels Midland grain elevator at the foot of Elm Street.

About 11:30 a.m., the United States Coast Guard in St. Louis contacted the Chillicothe Fire Department about the fire.

A crew on a City of Paduca barge passing by the area used the marine channel to contact the Coast Guard about the fire, concerned for two Joe Coleman Salvage & Demolition workers on top of the elevator, said Chillicothe Fire Chief John Myers.

Several locals noticing the smoke also contacted officials.

The workers were removing metal from the bins, as well as all other metal items to be salvaged, eventually leaving just the concrete grain elevator.

Myers said when he approached Second Street, a lot of smoke filled the area.

Fortunately, the two workers had used a man-lift, which they use to reach the top, to descend the fire area and reach the ground.

Myers said that he believes a spark from the torch entered a large tube-like loading spout formerly used to load grain on waiting barges.

The inside of that tube is rubber, causing the extreme smoke. The two workers attempted to use two fire extinguishers, but the fire was located in a different area.

Since no fire hydrants are located in that area, a 23-man fire crew ran a 5-inch supply line from the corner of Second and Elm streets down to the elevator.

“I do not believe there was ever fire inside the elevator,” said Myers. “Our first concern was getting the workers off the building. Then we were concerned if there was fire inside the elevator, where there is still lots of grain dust, it might cause an explosion.”

Firemen set up the 100-foot aerial ladder and sprayed water into the smoky area. They finally managed to get it inside the tube, thus putting out the fire.

Myers said extinquishing the fire took about 45 minutes. Firemen first removed all the heavy machinery from the area to gain access.

“We never went in or on the building,” said Myers. “Since it is under salvage, there was concern some of the material up there might be in a dangerous position.”

Myers said at one point firemen attempted to force water up a metal tube from the ground.

Unfortunately, there were buckets inside the tube which had been used to carry grain.

As the buckets filled with water from the firemen’s hose, the buckets came back down the tube, bringing all the water back as well.

Myers said he is putting a zero damage estimate on the property.

“It’s hard to put an estimate on something that’s going to be torn down anyway,” said Myers. “The fire didn’t damage the metal.”

The workers are currently demolishing and removing unwanted items at the property, which is now owned by the city.