Lightning strike caused Hastings fertilizer plant fire

Hastings Fire & Rescue battles a large structure fire.
Hastings Fire & Rescue battles a large structure fire.(KSNB)
Published: May. 24, 2019 at 1:28 AM CDT
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Authorities blame lighting for a fire that lit up the night in southeast Hastings and destroyed a $14 million dollar dry fertilizer plant.

The state fire marshal's office confirmed to Local4 that a late night lightning strike ignited the dry fertilizer plant owned by Cooperative Producers Inc. (CPI). The fire marshal said the Hastings Rural Fire department was called to the scene at 2275 East South Street about 11:30 Thursday night. Firefighters from the city of Hastings, Trumbull, Glenvil and Juniata battled the blaze for four hours before bringing it under control.

Images from the fire showed large flames and heavy smoke coming from the roof of the building.

What was left continued to smolder throughout the day on Friday.

Preliminary damage estimates for the bulk dry fertilizer plant were $14 million for the building and $5 million for the fertilizer product.

Two semi-drivers on the scene were waiting for the plant to open to make a delivery. They suffered minor injuries and were treated and released a few hours later.

The CPI Elevator resides in the Hastings Rural Fire District. Due to building collapse and other structural hazards, the fire could not be fully extinguished and may smolder throughout the weekend. Hastings fire officials said the smoke should be considered no more hazardous than smoke from an outside burn, however residents should be prepared to take certain precautions should wind cause smoke in your neighborhood.

Precautions would include washing any exposed surfaces with soap and water, and keeping doors and windows shut until the smoke subsides. Individuals with a predisposition to respiratory and breathing problems may find the smoke to be irritating, and should be prepared to wear a dust mask or relocate until the smoke subsides. If you think you are experiencing a medical emergency, do not hesitate to call 911 for assistance.

The plant was opened just last year with a ribbon cutting ceremony in August.

According to a CPI release from last year, the plant had the total capacity of 44,000 tons and officials had said it would change many operations there. They said the plant allowed semis to be loaded in minutes and gave them access to the railways.

A statement released by CPI late Friday afternoon referred to the fire as "nothing short of a tragedy." CPI Chief Executive Officer Allan Zumpfe said in part, “I am very thankful and humbled by all of the outpouring of support we have received from the community of Hastings as well as the leaders of various Nebraska Cooperatives throughout the state. We will rebuild this great facility and asset to our company.”

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