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Devils Lake elevator will be rebuilt; fire likely caused by spontaneous combustion

A Devils Lake firefighter monitors a hose aimed at a hotspot in the burning Dakota Dry Bean elevator Monday morning. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. -- Spontaneous combustion is the likely cause of a fire this week that destroyed a Dakota Dry Bean elevator in Devils Lake.

However, the official cause of the Sunday night blaze is listed as undetermined, according to Devils Lake Fire Chief Jim Moe.

"We ruled out arson. That leaves only three things, based on where the fire was found," he said, explaining the source of the fire was in the upper section of the 90-foot-tall building.

The three are: dust on lights that could have overheated, an overheated bearing or spontaneous combustion. The first two are unlikely, he said. However, employees had reported some moisture and heating that could have contributed to spontaneous combustion.

"We can't prove it, and maybe we never will," he said.

About 65 firefighters from Devils Lake and Devils Lake Rural fire departments battled the blaze all night long in temperatures that at one point reached 24 degrees below, with 23 mph winds.

Meanwhile, equipment began arriving Thursday to start demolishing the outer structure of the building, located along College Drive on the west side of the city of Devils Lake.

Damage has been estimated at $1 million, including $400,000 for the 100,000 bushels of pea byproducts stored inside.

The elevator will be rebuilt about five5 miles east of the city of Devils Lake, near the site of Dakota Dry Bean's processing facility, along U.S. Highway 2 near Haybale Bay, according to company President and CEO David Polries. The company refers to that site as Lakeview.

"We will start work this summer on it, and have it done by fall," he said.

Dakota Dry Bean, based in Grand Forks, also has facilities in East Grand Forks, Minn., Crary, N.D., and Lansford, N.D.

The Lakeview processing plant produces pea flour, according to Polries.

The company had two full-time employees at the Devils Lake elevator. Both now are located at the Lakeview facility, Polries said.

He expects the outer shell and wood portions of the building to be demolished over the next few days or weeks, while demolition and removal of concrete sections will wait until spring. A minimal amount of asbestos removal also is necessary in the office area, he said.

Kevin Bonham

Kevin Bonham covers regional news, mostly from northeast North Dakota, for the Grand Forks Herald. A North Dakota native who grew up in Mandan and Dickinson, he has been a reporter or an editor with the Herald and Forum Communications for more than 30 years. Find his articles at: He welcomes story ideas via email,, or by phone, (701) 780-1110.