By ROBERT S. MERRILL
A fire started at approximately 3:37 p.m. Wednesday at Valley Wide Co-op’s (Franklin County Grain Growers) grain mill at 264 So. State and totally destroyed the structure, causing between $4-5 million in damage.
Fire District Fire Marshal Scott Martin said the fire spread quickly and was already pushing through the main elevator when the first crews arrived.
He told The Citizen on Thursday morning the official cause of the fire is still undetermined. He said estimated damage is between $4-5 million. The structure was insured.
A farm store, propane, and heating/farm fuel operations, adjacent to the elevator, are open and unaffected by the fire. Several other warehouse and outbuildings were not involved.
Fire crews were still on the scene at 11 59 p.m. Wednesday mopping up and watching for hotspots in the granary tower and adjacent grain storage bins.
“We had a rekindle at 4 a.m. Thursday and had a fire crew on stand-by, which extinguished the second blaze. A roller room, part of the grain mill, was also destroyed.
Some 22 firefighters from the Franklin County Fire District were assisted by 33 from North Logan, Logan, Lewiston, Trenton, Richmond and Smithfield. Aerial ladder trucks and additional equipment from these agencies were also used in fighting the fire..
The Fire District has a mutual-aid agreement with Cache County for assistance with major blazes.
Local fire officials would not speculate on the exact cause of the fire and Martin said it may take some time to determine that.
Employees of the facility quickly evacuated the premises after the fire started on Wednesday. Fuel and fertilizer trucks and other equipment were moved from the scene. Traffic was diverted to side-streets and a crowd gathered in the parking lot of Stokes Marketplace to watch.
By 4 p.m. school busses with stops within three blocks of the fire returned to the school. Parents were notified to pick up students there.
Rocky Mountain Power officials cut power to the entire west side of State Street for two-to-three hours.
Stokes’ parking lot was cleared at approximately 4:30 p.m. Nearby businesses and homes were evacuated because officials were fearful of a grain-dust explosion.
At the same time the roof of the structure was crashing inward.
Besides the grain mill, a large amount of fertilizer, oil, and other product is stored at the facility.
Valley Wide CEO Dave Holtram and other company executives from Rupert were in Preston on Thursday morning to assess the damage and talk with insurance representatives.
Franklin County Grain Growers Co-op, an 81-year-old institution in southeastern Idaho, officially became Valley Wide Co op on Jan. 1 after a merger.
Valley Wide is headquartered in Rupert and is a farm supply dealer with several retail and other outlets in southern Idaho and Oregon.
FCGG served the needs of farmers and residents of Franklin County since 1930. The local company supplied propane, farm fuel, heating oil, coal, operated a feed mill and a retail, hardware, lumber, gasoline, and convenience store that opened in 2008.
Valley Wide began in 1998 with the merger of two small entities in Eastern Idaho — Menan and Madison Co-ops. It currently has $185 million in sales.
Valley Wide has three main divisions: agronomy, the engine of the company; retail and farm supply stores; and energy, the delivery of refined fuel and propane.
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