House, outbuildings destroyed in blaze


Cause of Sunday afternoon fire unknown

BRUCE – Heat, wind and a skunk made a major fire call that much more difficult Sunday, according to Brookings Fire Chief Darrell Hartmann.

A house and several other buildings were total losses, according to the Brookings Fire Department.

The fire was called in to the BFD at 2:45 p.m. and occurred at 47230 198th Street, Hartmann said. 

“The Bruce Fire Department, Brookings Fire Department, Aurora Fire Department, Volga Fire Department, White Fire Department, Estelline Fire Department, Brookings Ambulance, and the Brookings County Sheriff’s Office responded to a structure fire at an abandoned acreage,” said Assistant Sheriff Scott Sebring, which included an unoccupied house and five outbuildings.

“When we arrived, we had a large two-story structure that was completely involved with fire through the roof,” Hartmann said, adding the fire had already extended to the outbuildings.

The BFD called for mutual aid due to the heat, which was around 97 degrees, and winds around 20-25 mph, according to the BFD’s Facebook post. 

Firefighters exerting themselves in that heat, wearing turnout gear, are in danger and need to be rotated frequently, Hartmann said. Plus, the other crews were needed to tender support for water, he added.

“The Brookings Auxiliary brought us water, Gatorade, and later on, food,” Hartmann said.

He said his crews battled the fire, heat and wind for almost six hours. 

As if the conditions weren’t bad enough, the firefighters had to contend with some unexpected tenants.

“We had raccoons and a skunk in one of the smaller outbuildings that finally collapsed,” Hartmann said. “Raccoons that were in there all vacated, so they were not a threat, but the skunk didn’t want to leave.”

When firefighters encountered the skunk, “it turned and went to spray, so they backed out,” Hartmann said. “Two firefighters kind of got sprayed.”

The skunk was in a concealed area, which contained a lot of the spray, and Hartmann gave credit to one of his crew for holding down the pungent scent.

“One of our firefighters, thinking quickly, had a hose line; he put a fog pattern on it to kind of hold the spray in the area,” he said.

The firefighter’s quick action is all the more impressive because it’s not part of standard training.

“Unfortunately, that’s usually learned on the job,” Hartmann said wryly.

The firefighters called in a sheriff’s deputy who “dispatched the animal with one shot,” Hartmann said.

“Just for safety; those types of animals can carry rabies and all different types of stuff, so for the safety of our personnel, the deputy was called in to dispatch the animal,” Hartmann said.

The firefighters still had to make sure the fire was out; in the end, the house and the outbuildings were lost, but other than some heat stress, no one was injured, Hartmann said.

“Lost in the fire were several old antiques inside of the home, two old scrap metal vehicles and miscellaneous tools. A skid steer was also damaged but was still functional,” Sebring said.

The total value of the damage is unknown at this time. 

“The cause of the fire is unknown and under investigation with the Brookings County Sheriff’s Office,” Sebring said.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected].

Brookings Fire Department photo: Firefighters battle a house fire on an acreage north of Brookings Sunday afternoon. Several outbuildings were also destroyed in the blaze.

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