Stonega destroyed

As many as 15 departments converge on rural Hamilton County grain elevator fire

Howling wind drove the flames early Sunday morning that eventually destroyed the Stonega grain elevator east of Webster City on old Highway 20.

Fire departments from as far away as Alden in Hardin County and Eagle Grove and Clarion in Wright County converged on the site to help Hamilton County firefighters fight the fire at the United Cooperative site near where old 20 intersects with the Stonega blacktop.

As many as 15 fire departments responded to the fire.

The blaze was called in around 1:15 a.m. Sunday to Kamrar Fire, according to Holly Mortenson, whose husband Tim Mortenson is chief of Kamrar Fire. It was quickly turned over to Blairsburg Fire, she said.

Stonega is in Blairsburg Township.

Sunday afternoon, those two departments were still monitoring the smoldering site. Blairsburg, Kamrar and Williams will rotate watching it, she said.

“It’s taken all of us to do it,” she added. “This will be ongoing for several days.”

The cause of the fire is unknown and it will likely stay unknown due to the extensive damage.

Even with the support of Webster City and Eagle Grove aerial trucks and multiple tankers and manpower from the many departments on scene, they could not put the fire out.

“We didn’t have enough water to help the fire at all,” Mortenson said.

Lost were 330,000 bushels of soybeans and a 1954 wooden elevator and all of its components. Two other bins, their contents and all of their components were also lost.

A new structure built three years ago did not burn, she said, but it will have to be inspected because of the tremendous heat of the neighboring blaze.

Some of the fire debris spilled onto the Chicago Central & Pacific Railroad tracks, which run adjacent to the Stonega site. Sunday afternoon workers for that company were at Stonega doing repairs to the tracks. The line was expected to be reopened at the end of the day.

Stonega became part of the United Cooperative in 1977, according to a history of the site written by the late Ed Nass. Originally it was organized as the Stonega Home Elevator Company.

“Stonega could not really be considered a settlement,” Nass wrote. “Primarily, it was a stop on the Illinois Central Railroad, where stock and grain could be loaded on the train. It was located about a mile west of Druid’s Siding.

“The elevator was organized in 1912 as the Stonega Home Elevator Company which was owned and operated by a few farmers. The scale pit was dug on January 1, 1913 — a very cold time to be digging. The station stop was named, according to the railroad officials, for Mr. Stone, the division superintendent for the Waterloo-Fort Dodge division. Atlases dated 1915 and 1920 give the name as Stone Eagle, but the residents in the area insist that the name was always Stonega. From 1920 to the present, the Stonega name has always been used.”

At 6:32 p.m. Sunday, Blairsburg Fire returned to the station. “Thanks for everyone who helped today,” a weary voice said over the radio.


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