By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Losses could be as much as $1 million from Monday’s fire at S & L Farms, about a mile north of Imperial.
The heavy, black smoke moved by strong 20-30 mph southwest winds Monday could be seen for miles as the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department (IVFD), with the help of three other departments, fought the fire that eventually consumed a 60 x 120 foot pole building and all of its contents.
Nothing was salvaged in the building that housed farm equipment, vehicles, trailer homes and miscellaneous shop equipment, said Imperial Fire Chief Nick Schultz. The IVFD received the call at 10:02 a.m.
No one was injured in the blaze which kept firefighters on the scene about four hours.
Loud explosions were heard in the first hour of the fire. That likely came from propane tanks and large implement tires, Schultz said.
State Fire Marshal investigator Ryan Sylvester of Ogallala was on the scene by about 11:30 a.m.
While a specific cause is yet undetermined, Sylvester said it started in the southwest corner of the building, in or near a trailer home parked in that area, according to Schultz’s report.
The fire was reported by Linda Payne, who operates the custom harvesting and farming operation with her husband Scott.
“When we reached the scene, the fire had already reached the roof” with flames escaping skyward, said Schultz.
He added part of the roof on the west portion of the building had already collapsed as IVFD trucks pulled onto the property.
“It was obvious we couldn’t save the building or its contents,” he said.
So, their efforts concentrated on protecting the immediate area, include a mobile home just west of the building, as well as trees and pasture to the north.
While en route to the scene, Schultz said they realized water would be an issue, so volunteer fire departments from Wauneta, Lamar and Grant were called in then for mutual aid.
Once set up, water was flowing to contain the fire at more than 500 gallons a minute from three attack lines and one main stream, Schultz said.
There were moments the water had to be shut down until tankers refilled the two porta-tanks on the scene, he said.
The IVFD had all of its rural equipment on scene including the rural pumper, three tankers, two quick attack units, the rescue truck and command vehicle.
The three area departments brought an additional five tankers and three quick attacks, which Schultz said were invaluable.
“The assistance from Lamar, Wauneta and Grant was a major factor in protecting the surrounding areas,” he said.
Imperial EMS also had an ambulance on site, which is standard procedure in all structure fires, Schultz said.
After meeting with the Paynes later, Schultz listed the following major losses that were housed in the building—five tractors, two trucks (one grain, one service), two pickups, one car, one 1,000 bushel grain cart, three trailer homes, two headers and several equipment trailers, as well as miscellaneous items including tires, wheels and shop equipment.
In addition to the S & L Farm losses, about an acre of grass and some pine trees to the north were burned in the fire, he said.