Blaze puts Lyon County’s fire departments to the test

Smoke billowed AS flames raged through a shop on U.S. Hwy. 14 last Tuesday night at the Jim Swenson residence near Marshall. All Lyon County fire departments and two Redwood County departments assisted in battling the blaze. Facebook image

A little less than four years ago, Quentin Brunsvold — just six months into his stint as Marshall’s fire chief — responded with his men to a jaw-dropping fire at the Southwest Coaches bus garage in Marshall. Little did he know at the time, that fire would serve as a learning tool.

Last Tuesday, Brunsvold and his charges put their experience to the test when a fire broke out in Jim Swenson’s storage shed at 213 U.S. Hwy. 59 south of Marshall.

“Four years ago, I was scared at that one,” said Brunsvold. “But we came up with a plan and we executed. I learned everything from that fire that I know today. We were there for 12 hours and sprayed 795,000 gallons of water on the fire, and we did almost 500,000 gallons at this fire in half the time. We changed our tactics based on that fire four years ago.”

The Marshall Fire Department veteran ranks last week’s blaze right up there with the 2002 Southwest Minnesota State University fire that resulted in the rebuilding of whole sections of campus, and that 2018 bus garage fire at Southwest Tour and Travel in Marshall.

“I would say (last week’s fire) was the second largest fire in my career — number one being SMSU — just in terms of the sheer size of the building and value,” said Brunsvold, who has logged more than 19 years of service with the Marshall Fire Department. “I was talking to my predecessor, Marc Klaith, the other night and he said he believes that’s the third largest fire in the Marshall Fire Department’s history since he’s been around, and he put in 35 years.”

The Marshall Fire Department was called to last Tuesday’s fire about 6 miles south of Marshall at 7:41 p.m. and arrived 9 minutes later. The scene upon their arrival was truly an ominous one, as dark smoke, accompanied by a growing field of flames, emanated from the 70 foot-by-176 foot building.