Firefighters respond to POET fire

Smoke billows around the POET Biorefining’s grinding process Thursday afternoon while firefighters tackle a fire there at the site south of Ashton.

ASHTON—An exhaust tube attached to POET Biorefining’s grinding process caught fire Thursday afternoon south of Ashton.

The Ashton Fire Department was called to the scene around 3:15 p.m.

According to Ashton fire chief Andy Gacke, the fire was located in an exhaust tube connected to one of the plant’s grinders. Gacke said the exact cause of the fire is uncertain, but he expects worn bearings and normal wearing of the structure contributed to the initial sparks.

“It’s still undecided but that’s what I’m probably looking at,” he said. “It’s nobody’s fault.”

Sibley and Sheldon firefighters provided mutual aid. A ladder truck from the Sheldon Fire Co. was used to get above the grinders and cool the tower nearest to the fire.

Other firefighters were able to get on top of the grinders to tackle the flames, which Gacke said were confined to the tube.

“There was really no room for spreading where it was,” he said. “It was a matter of getting things cooled down and flames out.”

It took about two hours of effort to put out the fire and sufficiently cool down nearby areas. Gacke credited POET employees assistance at the site for helping speed up the process of getting to the fire.

“We would have had to cut open that tube and they had special equipment and could help us get in position to get that,” Gacke said.

He said the speedy response and location of the fire kept damage minimal and estimated about $10,000 occurred to the exhaust tube and attached grinder.

The Sibley Ambulance and Osceola County Emergency Management also responded to the call. About 25 firefighters were on the scene.

Ashton firefighters were back in service at 6:30 p.m.