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Update: Cause of Baldwin elevator fire may never be known

The cause of a fire that destroyed a historic Baldwin grain elevator and feed mill may never be discovered.

Lee Seim, the Baldwin-area dairy farmer who owned the facility, didn't have insurance on it. As a result, there aren't any insurance companies trying to find out how the blaze started -- and the village of Baldwin wants the debris cleaned up as quickly as possible.

"With the heat and intensity, it was hard to get inside to really get a determination (of what started the fire)," Gary Newton, chief of United Fire & Rescue's Baldwin station, said Monday.

Newton said firefighters "seemed to rule out" a natural gas leak and "all the utilities" as the cause of the Thursday afternoon, April 3, blaze.

The first eyewitnesses, according to Newton, said the 75-foot-tall structure was already "fully involved" in fire when they noticed that it was burning.

The former Baldwin Feed & Seed building stood along railroad tracks, separated from Main Street by a village park, at the east end of Baldwin's old business district. The 150-foot-long and 100-foot-wide building had a frame of heavy timbers covered by steel siding, according to a United Fire & Rescue spokesman.

Seim purchased the building six or seven years ago and used it as a feed storage facility for his herd of 150 dairy cows.

United Fire & Rescue, serving the villages of Baldwin, Woodville and Hammond, was first on the scene. Fire departments from Spring Valley, River Falls, Roberts, Hudson and New Richmond were called to assist with equipment and manpower.

Hudson's aerial ladder truck was dispatched to the scene.

The Glenwood City department stood by at United Fire & Rescue's Woodville station while United firefighters battled the fire.

Newtown said his department was on scene for seven hours -- until about 11:15 p.m.

The clean-up of the site has already begun, he said.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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