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Fire destroys rural Wilmont shed that housed grass hay bales

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

A passerby during the 4 a.m. hour Monday alerted a rural Wilmont family that their hay barn was ablaze.

The Wilmont Fire Department remained at the scene Monday afternoon at the Summit Lake Farms hay structure owned by the Russ and Brian Penning families. The shed housed more than 1,100 grass hay bales that are used to feed their cattle at several locations in the Wilmont area. The devastating fire means that in mid-harvest, the families will not only have to continue harvest in the midst of the loss, but also find replacement hay for their cattle lots.

Assisting the Wilmont Fire Department were several dozers and excavators from Henning Construction. Several parties were bringing food and refreshments for those still fighting to sort out the massive amounts of smoldering bales.

The Penning brothers feed and finish more than 5,000 head annually.

UPDATED AT 11:45 a.m. with comments from Wilmont's fire chief:

Wilmont Fire Department Chief Logan Neyens said Tuesday morning that firefighters were on the scene for a total of 19 1/2 hours. The Lismore Fire Department was also on hand Monday morning to provide water and a pumper, and the Rushmore Fire Department also hauled in water Monday morning.

Neyens said that early on, firefighters considered a change in wind that was forecast for Tuesday. As a result, the decision was made to ultimately dig holes and bury around 1,400 bales after cooling the fire down as much as possible.

Neyens said the cause of the fire is under investigation, and that there were no injuries. He expressed gratitude to the Penning family and neighbors for bringing food and water to the firefighters, He also stressed that Henning Construction deserved "big thanks" for arriving at the fire in a timely fashion and bringing the equipment it did -- and then sticking out the firefighting effort until the end.

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