By Dominik Stallings
A grain bin in Arcola collapsed Thursday, Feb. 1, spilling tons of corn and prompting cautionary evacuations. The accident occurred around 6:30 p.m. at the Growmark, Inc., facility on the corner of U.S. 45 and Illinois Rt. 133.
According to a senior firefighter, Richard Bickel, no one was injured in the collapse. He said that employees had left the facility by 4:30 p.m. Bickel said firefighters were at the nearby firehouse for a meeting, heard the grain bin collapse and felt the vibrations, and responded as quickly as possible.
Corn spilled into the backyards of two nearby residences, knocking down fences, said Bickel.
The corn demolished a garage belonging to the nearest residence. Bickel said the house was also damaged but is still livable.
Cleanup at the site began Friday. Growmark representative Sabrina Burkiewicz said that demolition, reclamation companies, structural engineers and other experts are onsite for the cleanup process.
“Our goal is to ensure a swift but safe restoration process,” said Burkiewicz.
She added that engineers must proceed carefully as the damaged bins are connected.
Bickel said a grain bin collapsed and fell on another, damaging it and connecting structures. He said that further collapses are still possible during the cleanup.
The cause of the collapse has not been determined or confirmed by Growmark officials.
Bickel said employees speculated that the grain drying equipment wasn’t turned on, leading to a buildup of steam and heat and the eventual catastrophic failure of the bin.
Arcola City Administrator Bill Wagoner said the bins have complex engineering, so it’s hard to determine which process failed where.
Wagoner said that Ameren turned off utilities to the affected block during the incident. The city assisted individuals by keeping them at the Comfort Inn in Arcola. Residents returned home after Ameren restored the utilities.
According to Burkiewicz, the bin held approximately 560,000 bushels of corn worth $2.3 million. Burkiewicz said Growmark plans on reclaiming as much corn as possible during the cleanup.