HASTINGS, Minn. — Officials put down a large fire at Hastings Co-Op Creamery after an hours-long firefighting effort stretched through Wednesday night into Thursday morning.
The initial call came in around 10:35 p.m. Wednesday, and by 9 a.m. Thursday the city of Hastings announced that the fire was fully extinguished.
Fourteen additional agencies helped with the fire, including seven area fire crews. When KARE 11 photojournalist David Peterlinz arrived on the scene flames were leaping into the sky and the entire structure was engulfed. He says it appeared that tornados of fire were shooting out of the roof of the building.
"Pretty rapidly moving fire, growing fire, so we immediately called some extra alarms, got extra help from our neighbors," Hastings Fire Chief John Townsend told KARE.
"It was a tremendous effort by all of the responders that came. I'm really pleased with how they all worked together and really came together in a difficult night."
Officials reported that ammonia used in the operation's cooling system was leaking from the building when they arrived. Some ammonia was also strategically released at the scene but reportedly not into neighborhood areas.
On Thursday crews used a front-end loader to demolish part of the creamery in order to reach hot spots that firefighters couldn't get to safely.
"I was shocked to hear the fire was as big as it was, that it was as devastating as it was, and that so many agencies were called out to assist," Sen. Judy Seeberger told KARE.
Sen. Seeberger and others have been exploring ways to reboot the creamery since it closed last month, displacing dozens of dairy farmers who had to find other processors for their milk.
"It’s devastating for the community. It’s devastating for the future of the creamery, and things we’d hoped we’d be able to do to get it back open. And it’s really sad to see this happen."
Rep. Shane Hudella of Hastings, who has been part of those efforts to revive the creamery gave this statement to KARE.
"I'm very grateful that the creamery fire did not result in any loss of life or injury. The incident is a sad final chapter in the Creamery and Dairy Store's story in our community, of which they have been part of for over 100 years."
Neighbors told KARE 11 that the city of Hastings put out a "Reverse 911" call Wednesday night to advise residents to stay in their homes, close windows and doors and turn off HVAC systems, as there is heavy smoke and potentially toxic substances in the air. By 9 a.m. Thursday officials said multiple air samples were taken and there are no remaining threats to the public.
Part of Highway 61 was shut down between Highways 55 and 316 so crews could safely fight the fire, but officials announced the road was fully reopened later Thursday morning. The creamery is located at 1700 Vermillion Street.
The Hastings Fire Department will investigate the cause of the incident alongside the State Fire Marshal and the Hastings Police Department.
The fire comes a few weeks following the closure of the Hastings Co-Op Creamery after 110 years in business. In June, The Metropolitan Council temporarily cut the creamery off from the public sewer system after it reportedly dumped thousands of gallons of milk and cream into the system.
At the time, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture said they had been working with the creamery to keep it going, but the challenges proved too difficult to overcome.
Hastings Dairy Store was still open in August, but manager Jamie Broskoff had said even then its future was uncertain after the creamery closed.
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