Blaze burns at Peterson Excavating

Published 8:40 am Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fire burns Sunday morning at a building on the property of Peterson Excavating, 24302 755th Ave., immediately north of Albert Lea. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Firefighters from nine fire departments worked together to douse a major blaze Sunday morning at Peterson Excavating.

They were able to contain the fire to the building in which it started, despite high winds and nearby structures. No one was injured.

“Anytime we are able to do something like that, it makes us feel pretty good,” said Clarks Grove Fire Chief Carl Anderson.

Mike Peterson operates an excavator Sunday morning while firefighters douse flames. The excavator was brought in as part of an effort to get at a hot spot. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Mike Peterson operates an excavator Sunday morning while firefighters douse flames. The excavator was brought in as part of an effort to get at a hot spot. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

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The call for the fire went out at 6:43 a.m. The Clarks Grove Fire Department was the lead agency. It was assisted by fire departments from Geneva, Albert Lea, Albert Lea Township, Alden, Hayward, Freeborn, Manchester and Hartland and by the Naeve Hospital ambulance.

Flames shot out the north side of the building when firefighters arrived, Anderson said.

Even with the nine fire departments bringing water, more was needed. In addition to excavating, Peterson Excavating also is a commercial recycler. The building on fire had pellets for wood-burning stoves and plastic twine inside.

Moreover, firefighters were working to keep the fire from some nearby diesel tanks and to keep the diesel tanks cool. As part of the effort, the Albert Lea Fire Department brought its ladder truck, allowing firefighters to shoot water down on the tanks. Anderson noted the ladder truck uses a fair share of water.

Tanker trucks coordinated efforts to haul water to the scene.

Peterson Excavating, 24302 755th Ave., is across the road from the Good Samaritan Society. While Good Sam is in the city limits of Albert Lea, Peterson Excavating is not. And there are only two fire hydrants at Good Sam.

A convoy of fire trucks haul water Sunday morning from fire hydrants in Albert Lea to the fire at Peterson Excavating. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

That meant some of the trucks were driving down Bridge Avenue to fill up at city hydrants at Crossroads Church and along Plaza Street near the AmericInn. It’s not often Albert Lea motorists see, for instance, a Hayward fire truck, lights flashing and horns blaring, heading down their city streets.

Anderson said he didn’t know how it started and was going to meet with a fire marshal yet Sunday morning.

He said he appreciated that the Salvation Army came out with its truck to offer doughnuts, breakfast bars, chips, coffee and juice to the firefighters, many of whom had not eaten a morning meal by the time they were called into action.

Owner Mike Peterson said the structure was insured, and he estimated the loss at about $1 million. In addition to holding pellets for wood-burning stoves and plastic twine, the building had recycling equipment, a conveyor and a loader inside.

Peterson Excavating also does business as I-90 Recycling.

He said he intends to rebuild and was thankful the firefighters preventing the blaze from spreading. He, too, didn’t know what could have started the fire.

Peterson himself helped fight the fire, getting inside a yellow Case excavator and digging out a hot spot while firefighters hosed down the remaining flames.

The wind speed around 7 a.m. was 17 mph with gusts up to 31 mph, according to the automated weather station at the Albert Lea Municipal Airport. The air temperature was 34 degrees.

Check back to later for a photo gallery.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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