UPDATE: Fireball Shoots Out of Fergus Falls Ethanol Plant - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

UPDATE: Fireball Shoots Out of Fergus Falls Ethanol Plant

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"I was just watching TV with my little guy that I take care of, and all of a sudden, we hear this huge boom and the whole house shook," Michelle Distel said, rolling her window down as she drove past the Green Plains Otter Tail ethanol plant to get a better look at what caused the commotion.

Neighbors and employees are catching their breath tonight after a huge explosion put them all at risk. The fire at the ethanol plant is now under control. Miraculously, no one was hurt.

The plant is right of I-94. Highway 116 was blocked off for a few hours as crews worked to put out the fire.

"I did not know what was going on, it almost sounded like something had hit the house," Michelle said. She was just a few hundred yards away, babysitting, while a massive fire was burning just feet away from corn oil and ethanol.

Fire crews were already on scene fighting a blaze inside the dryer building when an explosion blew the roof high into the air. 

"My boss said it went at least 200 feet in the air, it was a big one," Michelle said.

The flames broke out just after quitting time at the plant. Anthony Hicks, General Manager, had just left when he was called back to work to sound the alarm.

"We went into emergency shut down, with the plant as well as the dryer," Hicks said.

Three other fire departments came to help Fergus Falls truck in water from the Otter Tail River. The Fire Chief says, by 6:30 p.m., they had cooled down the structure and isolated the fire, keeping it from spreading. Fifty-two firefighters came out to get the flames under control, but the chief says it wasn't anything they couldn't handle.

"We treat it with caution, but we do have drills with the plant and I think our training has paid off," Mark Hovland, Fergus Falls Fire Chief, said.

Now, Michelle is painfully aware of the danger lingering across the street, but, thankful only the building was damaged.

"Very lucky," she said. "Very blessed. Especially, that nobody was hurt, definitely being watched out for."

The fire department has not determined a cause of the fire. They say only seven employees were on the grounds at the time, none of them near the dryer building.



We have breaking news to report out of Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Highway 116 is closed down after an explosion at the ethanol plant near town. Valley News Team's Hope Hanselman is on scene and says no one was injured in the fire and residents are not being evacuated.

The fire chief confirms that an explosion happened around 4:20 p.m. on Monday. People as far away as downtown Fergus Falls report hearing a loud boom.

Early reports from emergency crews on scene say a valve may have failed to shut, which caused overheating and a fire in one of the dryers.

Heavy smoke could be seen for miles coming from the plant. One eyewitness tells us she could see smoke and flames coming from Green Plains Renewable Energy.

Several emergency crews are on scene and the call has gone out to neighboring communities for assistance.

Green Plains Renewable Energy is located at 24096 170th Avenue in Fergus Falls, which is just to the west of Interstate-94. Stick with Valley News Live and www.valleynewslive.com for updates to this breaking news story.

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