The historic grain elevator site of Stonega east of Webster City is still burning.

Not in the spectacular conflagration that greeted the 15 fire departments called to the scene very early Sunday morning.

This is a slow burn, fueled by grain and whipped by the winds that seem to have decided it’s time to blow.

As Sunday turned into Monday, and then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the fire crept into every cranny it could find, seeming to hide from the breeze that drove it.

Managing this scene has been Blairsburg Fire, whose volunteer 11-person crew rushed to the scene when the fire was first reported and has stayed throughout these long, blustery days.

The Stonega fire is in Blairsburg’s district. It is their task to oversee it.

Rod Harris, chief of Blairsburg Fire, said Thursday that the work has been eased by people and companies who appreciate the work of fewer than a dozen firefighters.

Specifically, Grid Iron Grill & Sports Bar and the west end Casey’s in Webster City have provided free food to sustain the folks on site.

For United Cooperative, of which Stonega is a part, finding a home for some grain was an issue until NEW Cooperative stepped up and offered United the use of its ground pile site at Blairsburg to stage its soybeans, according to Nick Willwerth, United’s general manager.

Willwerth — and this would be a good time to apologize for misspelling his name the other day — says the work of spreading the pile at the still-burning site will continue until the fire is out. Then United will have to screen what remains of the beans that are mixed with the chaos of a burned down wood house elevator.

Apparently, though Willworth has not yet seen this, there is a video somewhere that may show lightning striking the Stonega wood house before it burned early Sunday. He said it’s too early to conclude anything regarding that.

My family’s farm was just up the Stonega blacktop a couple of miles, so Stonega is a part of my history. I remember riding in our pre-1950s pickup truck beside Dad on our way to Stonega when I was maybe 3 or 4.

Stonega was on our way to town, if we chose to take the old Highway 20 route. And as much as Mulberry Center Church holds name identification for me growing up, so does Stonega.

Hamilton County Sheriff Doug Timmons told the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Tuesday that he could see the glow in the sky when he got up to answer the call on Sunday morning.

Timmons lives in Stratford.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to the fire departments and every emergency responder who rose in the middle of the night to fight this fire, or simply did their job well that morning. Timmons pointed to a specific example.

“Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is lucky to have some of the best dispatchers around,” Timmons said on social media. “This last Sunday morning is a prime example; dispatcher Lydia McGill was our dispatcher on duty when the fire broke out at the United Co-op Stonega location.

“Lydia answered multiple 911 calls reporting the fire. Then single-handedly paged every fire department in Hamilton County. Then contacted three other counties to have several more fire departments respond. A total of 15 fire departments responded.

“While Lydia was doing this, she also called a power company to come to the scene, made arrangements to contact our emergency manager, contacted the railroad to stop train traffic, paged an ambulance to stand by at the fire scene, then ran the radios as departments responded to the scene.”

Someone deserves a raise.

Volunteers won’t get raises, so if you’d like to know how you can help Blairsburg Fire in this instance, you can call Willwerth at United Co-op’s Webster City office. That number is 515-832-6373.

Those of us who receive the benefits of your hard work are grateful. I know I am.

Jane Curtis is interim editor of the Daily Freeman-Journal.


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