All-Night Fire at Belmond, Ia., Fought by Companies from Eight Cities—Sugar Melted by Heat but Some Bags Can Be Reclaimed

AFTER an all night battle in which fire companies from eight communities participated, the men were successful in extinguishing a fire that destroyed the warehouse of the American Beet Sugar Co., at Belmond, Ia.

The warehouse contained 167,000 sacks of sugar each holding one hundred pounds. The pump used by the company to draft water from the river was temporarily out of service and the firemen were hampered in their work.

Sacks of Burning Sugar Exposed When Wall Fell.View of the Plant and Warehouse During Progress of Fire

The origin of the fire is unknown although officials of the company are inclined to attribute it to spontaneous combustion. A small fire was discovered on the middle of the roof by the night watchman. Before aid arrived, about two-thirds of the roof was ablaze. The fire was burning its way down. The walls of the warehouse were pushed out by the heat and hundreds of bags of burning sugar were exposed to the wind. The breeze added to the intensity of the fire. The entire end thus exposed became a roaring furnace. The heat melted the sugar and the flowing mass ran down over the hot embers and made a pyrotechnic display like the Niagara Falls commonly seen in fireworks. The syrupy mass even ran down the outside of the building walls.

Companies came from Mason City, Clarion, Iowa Falls, Fort Dodge, Eagle Grove, Luverne and Hampton, besides the aid summoned from Belmond. It was some time before the firemen’s work was effective. An hour after the fire had started, there was two lines running from the Iowa river, a fourth of a mile distant, to the burning structure.

During the first part of the battle, the men worked to prevent the spread of fire to other buildings. In this they were successful. To the east of the burning section was the beet pulp warehouse and the pulp drying room. The warehouse for the pulp was of all steel construction and did not seem to be affected by the burning sugar. The drying room was more in the path of the wind. Some cupolas and other wooden structures on the roof started to burn, but the blaze was soon extinguished.

While the firemen were working, employees of the beet sugar company placed the pump back into the service, and this made available another stream from the river.

The fire was the largest ever experienced in northern Iowa. Persons attracted by the illuminated sky, chartered buses to take them to the fire. For a time the road congestion was so heavy that it was impossible to get near the plant.

It is believed that the loss will approximate $1,000,000. However, officials of the beet sugar company believe that much of the sugar can be reclaimed by a refining process. This well reduce the fire loss.

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