Northwood's Ice fire results in extensive damage, anhydrous ammonia leak

May 30—BEMIDJI — The Northwood's Ice building suffered extensive damage and an anhydrous ammonia leak after a fire broke out on Monday afternoon on Industrial Park Drive in Bemidji.

According to a release from Bemidji Fire Chief Justin Sherwood, at about 3:43 p.m. on Monday, May 29, the Bemidji Fire Department responded to the report of a commercial structure fire located at 811 Industrial Park Drive SE.

Upon arrival, firefighters found heavy brown smoke showing from the eaves and doors of the building. Firefighters deployed a 1 3/4-inch preconnected handline to the back of the building.

As firefighters attempted to access the building, they encountered heavy smoke and fire. Firefighters could not make entry due to a collapse of stored packing materials and pallet racking, the release said.

Firefighters relocated to the front of the building and attempted to enter the building but were forced back due to high heat, heavy smoke and zero visibility. Firefighters used ventilation tactics and exterior handlines to extinguish the fire.

While fighting the fire, firefighters learned that a large amount of anhydrous ammonia was stored inside the building and leaking due to the fire, exposing responding firefighters.

Those exposed were removed from the scene and placed in a staging area to be decontaminated.

The Minnesota State Duty Officer was contacted to request the Minnesota State Hazardous Materials Chemical Assessment Team out of Grand Rapids.

Evacuation orders were placed for all buildings within 0.2 miles downwind of the scene. The Hazardous Materials Team assessed the scene and isolated the leak by locating two valves.

The scene was then declared safe and the evacuation order was lifted, the release said.

Firefighters were on the scene for about six hours with 28 firefighters and eight pieces of equipment. The structure and its contents suffered extensive damage.

No firefighter injuries were reported, but many members were monitored for symptoms of exposure to anhydrous ammonia.

The fire is under investigation and appears to be accidental in nature, the release said.

The Bemidji Fire Department was assisted at the scene by the Bemidji Police Department, Bemidji Ambulance Service, Ottertail Power Company, Minnesota State Hazardous Materials Chemical Assessment Team and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal's Office.