Fire destroys potato farm in Montcalm County

DOUGLASS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A large fire that broke out Wednesday destroyed the barns at a potato farm in Montcalm County.

It was unclear how the fire started at Norman Crooks Farms, which is located at 5450 N. Musson Rd. in Douglass Township, northwest of Stanton. The blaze is believed to have broken out around 4 p.m. Crews remained on scene all night. And nearly 24 hours after the fire started, it was still smoldering.

>>Photos: Fire destroys potato farm near Stanton

Every tanker from 12 area fire departments was called in to to help fight the fire, according to emergency dispatchers. Belvidere Township Chief Rick Rockafellow estimated about 20 departments from six different counties assisted in fighting the fire.

An excavator was called in to help pull down steel beams in the barn, which would allow the firefighters to get closer to the fire and put it out. The wind was so fierce that by the time firefighters got the scene, the barn was fully involved and was unsafe for personnel to go in. The excavator arrived just after 10 p.m. to pull down parts of the building so firefighters could continue to battle the blaze.

Firefighters say the wind and cold temperatures caused several problems.

“The ice and the cold and the wind. The wind is furious out here. It blowed the fire the full length of the of the building. And then getting water here quick enough is not an easy task in the rural areas,” Rockafellow said.

One firefighters said that when he stepped away from the fire to take a break, he found himself covered in about an inch of ice from head to toe.

Damage is estimated in the millions of dollars. The six barns — which stretched some 600 or 800 feet — were full of enough potatoes to fill 600 semi-truck trailers. Also destroyed was farm equipment.

No one was hurt. That may be because the fire broke out on a holiday — New Year’s Eve — and there weren’t any employees working in the barn.

24 Hour News 8’s Ken Kolker contributed to this story.

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