Chemical storage building destroyed in fire along Dunn, Stark County line

Jan. 27—DICKINSON — A fire ignited inside a chemical storage building — which housed hazardous components — approximately one mile east off of Highway 22, north of Dickinson, Wednesday night. After monitoring the fire for more than 13 hours, the Dickinson Rural Fire Department verified that the structure was a total loss.

The Dickinson Rural Fire Department was paged out at approximately 11:15 p.m. Wednesday to the Jacam chemical facility on 30th Street, which is located on the Dunn and Stark County line. According to Administrative Chief Jeff Thompson, the fire department responded with 17 personnel and seven trucks. The last unit left the scene at 1 p.m. Thursday.

"We still have a responsibility to make sure that that fire doesn't do anything we don't want it to do," Thompson said. "So we did stay and monitor until we felt comfortable that the fire basically had burned itself out."

The building was used to store hazardous chemicals that were used in the process for Jacam's business, Thompson said, adding that the fire remains under investigation.

"I don't have an estimate of what was lost. We're working on that just because we have to figure out inventory and building estimates and all that," he said. "We don't have any leads, but we don't suspect any foul play. There's nothing suspicious about the fire. We're not suspecting arson or anything of that nature. But we don't at this time know what caused the fire."

The fire was "dual-county ran," Thompson said, explaining that the Dunn County Sheriff's Office as well as emergency managers and road departments from both Stark and Dunn counties responded.

"When our first officer in charge arrived on scene, the fire was showing out of the building. So it had burned through the roof. The fire was very active and the decision was made to go defensive, which means nobody enters due to the chemicals that are stored there," Thompson said. "We contacted the building managers to have them respond to the scene to help us make decisions. Once they got there, we made a unified decision to not attack the fire due to the chemicals and we let the fire burn out while we monitored air conditions and monitored for chemical runoff."

Thompson noted that if firefighters would have sprayed the fire with their hoses, water would have reacted with some of the chemicals, which would have also caused chemical runoff.

"So we made the calculated decision to not add to the environmental hazard," he added.

Dunn County Emergency Manager Sarah Duttenhefner was traveling about an hour out from the fire where Stark County Emergency Manager Shawna Davenport was present and arrived shortly after being called in, due to her proximity to the site.

Once the emergency managers were both on scene, they went under the Dickinson Rural Fire Department's guidance as they were the incident commander.

"Our job is to ensure that if there's any individuals who need to be evacuated, that they're informed. (We) ensure public safety," Duttenhefner said.

The emergency managers were in contact with the National Weather Service in Bismarck that helped them with plume modeling and determining what the current weather conditions, such as wind direction, would be like over the next 8 hours, Davenport said.

"That was able to give us a projection of where that plume would go over Dunn or Stark, depending on. And based on those determinations, Chief Thompson was able to make his decision on how he wanted to approach that fire," Davenport said. "... We stayed on scene to do that."

An updated plume model was sent out at 7 a.m. Thursday, Davenport said, adding that they also helped with traffic flow as that one route on 30th Street was closed during that timeframe.

Though the building is located in Dunn County, Davenport noted that it was a collaborative effort between county agencies.

"Overall, we were able to see that everyone worked really well together... respectfully, because of that county line. It was one of those circumstances where you're like, 'Well, who's really is this?' Because it's teetering on both," she said. "But no one really questioned that; we just kind of jumped in, everyone got to work and it was just a really good process."

Thompson added that the Dickinson Rural Fire Department's call volume has been normal for January, and this fire marked one of the first structural fires for the new year.