Fire broke out at Midwest Machinery, the John Deere dealer in Madison, Minnesota, at 7:12 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21. Fire and ambulance crews and law enforcement were dispatched after a report of smoke came from a local caller.
Mutual Aid was called for immediately by the Madison Fire Department, and Milbank Fire Chief David Giesen responded with firefighters on two trucks. Kevin Schuelke, head of Grant County Emergency Management, also answered the call. The Big Stone, Revillo, Ortonville, and Odessa fire departments also sent crews. Firefighting teams, including pumper trucks from the surrounding municipalities, joined forces to battle the blaze. In all, 23 agencies arrived at the scene.
A local gas line that ruptured continued to feed the flames and added to the difficulty of combating the blaze. Fifteen homes and two apartment complexes in the immediate area were evacuated due to smoke and inhalation concerns arising from the fire plume.
A citywide water restriction was requested by officials to preserve the city’s water storage supply for firefighting. MN-Hwy 40, along with nearby Park Avenue, was barricaded to only allow access to emergency vehicles and to keep the public out of harm’s way. The smoke plume was reportedly detectable over 10 miles north of Madison.
Blain Johnson, Lac qui Parle County Emergency Management Director, said at the time of his press release, the fire was completely under control and residents had been allowed to return to their homes. The water restriction request was still in effect. Fire crews remained on the scene to locate hotspots and tear down parts of the building.
The 23 agencies and departments that provided mutual aid included: Madison Fire, Madison Ambulance, City of Madison, Lac qui Parle County Sheriff’s Office, Lac qui Parle County Emergency Management, Countryside Public Health, Dawson Fire, Marietta Fire, Marietta Ambulance, Montevideo Fire, Ortonville Fire, Bellingham Fire, Appleton Fire, Canby Fire, Nassau Fire, Milan Fire, Boyd Fire, Odessa Fire, Big Stone Fire, Revillo Fire, Milbank Fire, Grant County SD Emergency Management, and the Minnesota Highway Patrol.
A reunification center was set up at the Madison Mercantile, a local gathering spot, for evacuees to meet, make lodging plans, and receive updates from friends and family. The Emergency Operations Center was activated to help coordinate resources and supplies, enhance communication flow and decision-making, and organize public information.