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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

$1m blaze consumes area business, minutes after workers depart

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A fire at Koster Grain, Inc. in Aurelia Friday is estimated at close to $1 million in losses.

The fire destroyed the production building but thanks to the combined efforts of firefighters from Aurelia, Cherokee and Alta the blaze did not spread into adjoining buildings - including an office and large warehouse.

The fire was called in at shortly after 8 p.m. by a passerby, according to Aurelia Police Chief Gene Suhr, who said that the building was "engulfed" in flames only 30 minutes after employees had left for the weekend.

When Suhr arrived to the scene, flames were shooting out of the roof. Alta and Cherokee Fire Departments were called immediately to share water and manpower.

Craig Martin, plant manager, is extremely thankful.

"They did an outstanding job. Hats off to Matt Fredericksen, our electrician, who is also a volunteer for the Aurelia Fire Department. He bypassed (going to) the fire department to get out here and disconnect all the power. He knew where all the flammables were and saved as much as he could. (His quick actions) kept everyone safe. Everything in the building was a 100 percent loss but that's where the loss stopped."

The business grinds hard wood and presses it into pellets used in woodburing stoves. Two bins outside the destroyed 52x74 building were also saved - as was the 40-50 tons of product they each held.

Koster Grain, Inc. has been located in Aurelia for the past four and one-half years; a second business is located in Wall Lake.

They will be out of production for two-three months, but Martin said they already plan to rebuild and get into production as soon as they can thereafter. The Aurelia business currently employees six.

The Aurelia firefighters were on the scene until nearly 2 a.m.

On Sunday, two fire marshals were on the scene investigating the charred debris. It was determined that the cause of the fire was either a bearing or an electrical motor in the production building.

Suhr said he is thankful that Friday was a calm night; winds from any direction could have caused great havoc.

"Hats off to all of them," Martin said of the firefighters. "They kept everything under control. There were no injuries or loss of life. I am so thankful to God. A fire at this magnitude could have been so much worse. Everything here can be replaced."

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