WEST FARGO - The cause of the fire at the Busch Agricultural Resources elevator is yet to be determined, an official said Monday, July 15.

The north end of the “north annex” on the roof of the towering building and a portion of the roof was damaged in the Saturday, July 13 fire, though the extent of the damage and the dollar amount was not yet available as of late Monday afternoon.

At least some of the stored barley - which is used to make pale malt for Anheuser Busch’s Budweiser and Michelob beers - is likely ruined by smoke from the fire and water used to extinguish it. The stubborn fire burned about 15 hours before being fully extinguished, West Fargo Fire Marshal Dell Sprecher said.

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Sprecher had spent much of Monday inspecting the fire scene. He said he couldn’t give a time frame on how long the investigation would last, but hoped that it would be wrapped up by the end of the week.

Sprecher said his investigation has found “nothing suspicious” about the fire, though he discounted the possibility of a dust explosion causing the blaze because of how clean the elevator areas he inspected appeared.

“It’s cleaner than any other elevator I have seen,” Sprecher said. “I find it hard to believe that it had anything to do with dust.”

Plant officials said Monday they could not comment on the fire or the amount of damage to equipment or the barley stored at the plant, which is shipped to the Busch Agricultural Resources Moorhead Malt Plant as needed for processing into malt.

The finished malt is then shipped to breweries on the East Coast and in the Midwest.

The smell of smoke was noticeable outside the West Fargo elevator Monday.

Two people inspect fire damage on the roof of the Busch Agricultural Resources elevator at 1002 Main Ave. W., West Fargo, on Monday, July 15, 2019. Firefighters from West Fargo and Fargo needed 15 hours to extinguish the stubborn blaze, which had been reported early Saturday morning, July 13. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)
Two people inspect fire damage on the roof of the Busch Agricultural Resources elevator at 1002 Main Ave. W., West Fargo, on Monday, July 15, 2019. Firefighters from West Fargo and Fargo needed 15 hours to extinguish the stubborn blaze, which had been reported early Saturday morning, July 13. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)

Late Monday morning, the power was out at the plant at 1002 Main Ave. W., and a few workers congregated in the main office. Meanwhile, two people were using a large lift boom to get a closer look at damage on the roof of the facility.

The fire was discovered when someone passing by the elevator had called in a report of smoke from the plant about 4 a.m. Saturday, Sprecher said.

When firefighters arrived, they climbed up to the fire, and by the time they got to the roof, the color of smoke had changed to brown that indicated it was toxic, Sprecher said.

Firefighters then called for aerial hose truck. By the time that equipment arrived, flames were coming from the roof, Sprecher said.

Fargo firefighters also joined the West Fargo crews on the scene, as they fought the fire throughout muggy heat of 85 to 90 degrees, which forced firefighters to rotate crews and hindered efforts to put out the blaze, Sprecher said.

About 25 firefighters were on the scene with two aerial trucks, two fire engines and a rescue truck. One firefighter had to be taken to a local hospital to be treated for heat injuries, Sprecher said.

The fire had also gotten into the layered structure of the roof and rafters, making it difficult to extinguish and forcing firefighters to open up more and more of the roof as they worked to snuff out any smoldering spots, Sprecher said.