Gavilon fire could have been worse
AVALON A large natural gas pipeline, a railcar full of anhydrous ammonia and hundreds of thousands of bushels of corn could have added up to a serious fire.
Instead, firefighters and railroad employees were able to move the railcar of anhydrous ammonia and keep flames away from the gas line and stored corn during a fire Tuesday night at Gavilon Grain, 9231 E. Avalon Road in Avalon.
No damage estimates were available Wednesday, and the cause of the fire remained under investigation.
The Clinton Fire Department was dispatched at 7:58 p.m. for a fire in the maintenance building at the business, according to a Clinton Fire Deparment news release.
"A neighbor saw the fire and came in to tell me to call 911," said Betty Fisher, the bartender at Hack Rack, a tavern located next to the site. "I told the dispatcher that there was a tank of anhydrous ammonia. We thought it might have been ethanol, there, too."
When the Clinton Fire Department arrived, black smoke and flames were pouring from the roof of the shed. A railcar filled with anhydrous ammonia was within 100 feet of the southeast corner of the building, and a large, above-ground natural gas pipe was west of the burning building, according to the news release.
Many nearby grain bins and storage areas were full or close to full.
The department requested mutual aid, and four engine companies and EMS units helped at the scene. In all, 66 firefighters were involved, and 25 fire companies either helped on site or stood by to cover for other departments.
"We kept hearing bangs from the building, and we could see the flames from here," Fisher said. "The police came by to tell us that we needed to evacuate."
All of Avalon—about 20 homes—was evacuated. Residents were allowed to return to their homes after about an hour.
The maintenance building and the contents "appear to be a total loss," the news release said.
Mary Palu, a spokesperson for Gavilon, said the grain elevator was open for business Wednesday.
The company is in the middle of a two-part, multi-million improvement project that includes new inbound and outbound truck scales, more grain storage, upgrades to the rail tracks and a new office building.
The new facilities were not damaged, Palu said.