Spontaneous Combustion Responsible for Dunlap Fire

By Gina Ford

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September 8, 2010

Monica Elevator Company employees called 911 after seeing smoke coming from the top of a grain bin.

The Dunlap fire chief said after local crews arrived and assessed the situation they called for mutual aid. Crews from at least five nearby towns showed up to help.

After hours of pouring water into a grain elevator, charred hunks of corn flow out of holes cut by rescue crews.

Chief John Doering said, the "fire was contained, we kept it cool, the aerial platform from Peoria was a key element."

The cause of the fire? Chief Doering said spontaneous combustion.

"In this grain bin, this 150 thousand, 200 bushels of grain is last year's corn. Last year's corn crop quality was one of the poorest we've seen in a long time," said the chief.

Doering adds with the wet season and late harvest some of the corn here was likely damp when it went into the bins last year.

"You'll see that there's some mold and the like in this corn, and this mold, once it gets air, as they started to ship the corn out, allowed combustion to occur," Doering said.

Despite the fire, officials say the corn is not a total loss. Since it is not food quality it can be sold to make ethanol.

The chief said it will take several hours to get all of the corn out of the elevator to make sure the fire is completely extinguished. No one was injured in the incident.