Grain elevator fire strains Hawley water supply

Two firefighters combat a large flame from a lift ladder.
Fire crews spray water on a fully-engulfed grain elevator in Hawley early Monday. Crews from 17 fire departments responded to the scene.

Updated: 12:45 p.m.

Schools were closed Monday in the northwestern Minnesota city of Hawley after a large fire overnight strained the city’s water supply.

Hawley city administrator Lonnie Neuner said 17 fire departments responded to a fire in a wooden grain elevator in the town located about 20 minutes east of Moorhead.

“The big ladder trucks pumping water, there was two of them going 600 gallons a minute each, so 1,200 gallons a minute — and the water tower can only regenerate 600 gallons a minute,” explained Neuner. “So it was putting an awful strain on the water system in town.”

Neuner said he was not aware of any injuries, and most of the responding fire departments had been released from the fire scene as of mid-morning Monday as remaining firefighters worked to douse hot spots.

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“They’re kind of tearing it down little by little and spraying the smoldering areas right now,” said Neuner. “There’s a backhoe out there kind of tearing down the remains that are standing, with the fire departments spraying down everything as they tear it down.”

City residents were asked to limit water use during the morning hours while crews continued to pump large amounts of water onto the structure. That request was lifted soon after 11 a.m., with the city saying residents could return to normal water usage.

Neuner said he believes the wooden grain elevator was not currently in use, and the cause of the fire is unknown.

Neuner said the fire spread large amounts of hot ash and embers across town, but he had no reports of damage to other structures.