COLFAX, N.D. – A massive fire in Colfax Saturday morning destroyed the grain elevator, a tough blow for the small Richland County town.

Colfax is a city of about 120 people about 30 miles south of Fargo.

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Firefighters responded to reports of the fire about 1 a.m. and found the structure completely engulfed in flames, said Colfax Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Festus Mickelson.

More than a dozen fire agencies in the area helped fight the fire, which wasn’t knocked down until about 8 a.m. About 100 emergency personnel were involved in fighting the blaze, according to the local chapter of the American Red Cross.

When crews arrived the structure was still standing but after flames compromised the structure, it came down. Flames were 30-40 feet high, Mickelson said.

Crews were still battling flare ups at 11:20 a.m. and smoke was visible from several miles away.

The elevator structure and offices attached to it were completely destroyed. Grain might be recovered and sold but a lot of it was lost in the fire, Mickelson said.

A grain bin adjacent to the elevator was also damaged and Mickelson said that would be removed later, too.

A vault where the office used to sit was one of the only distinguishable features left intact.

The elevator and adjacent grain bins are owned by Colfax Farmers Elevator Inc. Mickelson said co-op officials were meeting about the incident to decide what to do next.

The elevator is the second-largest employer in town, with 14 employees, General Manager Carrol Duerr said.

According to Duerr, co-op officials are still assessing the damage and did not know how much it would cost to rebuild.  The next step will be to resume business with the remaining portion of the facility. That could happen by next week, he said.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Duerr.

Officials said it would take several weeks to clear the debris. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Duerr said they will likely determine the cause of the fire by the end of next week.

Colfax resident Shaun Jacobson said the loss of the elevator will have a significant impact on the town.

“We’re always able to see it from the interstate so not seeing it is weird,” Jacobson said.

Colfax volunteer firefighter Rick Stubs on, who has lived in Colfax for 60 years, said the elevator burned down one time before in 1949. The structure was rebuilt in 1959, he added and doesn’t remember any fires since.

“It’s going to be a setback,” Stubson said.

A fire occurred at a grain elevator in the neighboring city of Abercrombie, N.D., was also damaged by a fire last year in November.