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Mechanical failure to blame for ethanol plant fire

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FERGUS FALLS, Minn. – Investigators determined that a mechanical failure caused a fire and explosion Monday afternoon at an ethanol plant in Fergus Falls.

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A hydraulic pump that controls the damper in the dryer building of the Green Plains Renewable Energy plant failed Monday afternoon, according to a statement released Wednesday from Fergus Falls Fire Chief Mark Hovland.

The failure caused higher than normal temperatures in an attached chamber where hazardous emissions are destroyed. A fire started in the chamber, and smoke from the fire was drawn into the dryer building, causing a smoke explosion.

The explosion tore apart the building, Hovland said earlier this week. No one was injured in the fire or subsequent explosion.

Green Plains officials are still assessing the damage, which plant manager Anthony Hicks said is “significant,” but no dollar amount was given.

The plant, which produces corn-based ethanol, corn oil and distiller’s grains, has been in operation since 2008.

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