By Melissa Erickson, Ames Tribune, Iowa
A fire destroyed a grain bin at the Key Cooperative in Gilbert Wednesday that required 13 area fire departments to truck in water to help battle the blaze.
The fire broke out in a wood annex near the main office, located at 202 Main St., about 4 p.m.
Officials said it was too early to know how the fire started, but they said northwest winds blowing straight into the building fueled the fire, and helped it spread across the building.
No one was inside the annex at the time, but some employees were in the main office nearby, said Boyd Brodie, Key Cooperative operations manager.
Brodie said a resident happened to see the flames and came to alert the staff of the fire.
The annex held soybeans, but Brodie said they didn't know how much was in the annex at the time.
Flames and smoke were rising out of the top of the structure when Gilbert firefighters arrived on scene, said Fire Chief John Berg.
The Ames and Nevada Fire Departments brought in their ladder trucks so that firefighters could battle the blaze from above.
"It's a hard fire to fight, you can't do anything with it from the ground," Berg said.
A total of 13 fire departments, many of them staffed all by volunteers, responded with tanks of water.
"We had approximately 70,000 gallons of water available in Gilbert, however we were going through probably 1,000 gallons a minute," Berg said. "With that in mind, we didn't want to tax out the water tower too much, so we called in agencies in surrounding towns to provide water."
Firefighters took turns driving to the north side of Ames where they filled their tanks at three different fire hydrants and shuttled the water back to the site.
The building sits right next to railroad tracks, so Union Pacific Railroad was notified of the fire and stopped all rail traffic through Gilbert, Berg said.
The major flames were out around 7 p.m., but Berg said they planned to monitor the fire overnight and all day Thursday.
"The grain itself isn't really on fire right now, but we think the wood inside is likely still burning," he said. "We're still making attempts to get at that, but even with the reach that's available with the aerials, it's still challenging to get to all the points."