MVI rebuild discussions underway after devastating fire

A Memorial Day fire left a storage warehouse in ruins and the cause is still labeled undetermined.

Firefighters from multiple agencies in and around Wadena fought a blaze at Minnesota Valley Irrigation on Memorial Day 2022.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

WADENA — Minnesota Valley Irrigation is digging out of the rubble after a fire destroyed a 400 foot by 70 foot warehouse on the property on Memorial Day 2022.
The cause of the fire has gone down as undetermined at this time, according to Andrew Browne, Wadena Fire Department secretary. While there was a report of a lawnmower being used shortly before the fire started, the extent of the fire destroying so much of the warehouse has made it very difficult to make any determination on where the fire began other than on the south side of the building, Browne explained.
"If a cause is determined, a later press release will be issued later. The fire ignition was unintentional," a Wadena Fire Department news release stated.

A panoramic view of the fire ravaged warehouse at Minnesota Valley Irrigation in Wadena on Memorial Day 2022.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

Regardless of the start of the fire, fire fighters were finally able to put a stop to it before it spread to other areas buildings.
"Minnesota Valley Irrigation is fortunate that the only loss we suffered was our building and inventory," according to Bobby Kempenich, MVI Division Manager. "Our team members are all safe and ready to serve our customers. Our suppliers have assured us that new products are on the way in the weeks ahead. While this is a setback, we are moving forward business as usual while we rebuild. We do not anticipate any major disruptions to our provision of service."
Rebuild discussions are underway, but planning will take time as they sort through the aftermath of the fire.
"MVI has been in Wadena for 30 years and will be here for a long time to come," Kempenich said. "We are part of this community and appreciate the outpouring of support from area residents, customers and friends. We particularly want to thank all the first responders for their quick and capable containment of this fire and continuing to keep our community safe."

The devastating fire comes at a time when MVI, a company owned by R.D. Offutt Company Inc., is working to get farmers up and running after an estimated 75-80 irrigation systems have been damaged in central Minnesota and more than 300 systems statewide during various spring storms. One of those major storms occurred the same day as the fire.

Inside the building were several pieces of machinery, irrigation computer system controllers, various irrigation equipment and potato spraying chemicals. Due to the heavy smoke and fear of chemicals in the building, a temporary shelter in place was issued for the city of Wadena. The fire department said there was no hazard to the residences, it was a standard precaution. Most people were likely taking shelter already at the pending threat of a tornado passing by the area with a severe storm.

Traffic was diverted around Wadena as crews used Hwy 10 to deliver water and smoke filled Wadena. A tornado warning was in effect as the fire raged on.

That storm caused emergency first responders to take shelter at the Wadena County Courthouse at about 5 p.m. There was a confirmed tornado on the ground in nearby Eagle Bend. Firefighters returned to the scene about a half hour later to continue to hit hot spots on the scene.


The Wadena Fire Department was assisted on scene by Bertha, Bluffton, Deer Creek, Hewitt, Menahga, Sebeka, Staples, Verndale Fire Departments, Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office, Wadena Police Department, Wadena County Sheriff’s Department, Wadena County Emergency Management, Wadena Public Works, Wadena County Highway Department, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Minnesota State Patrol, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Friendly Rider, Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Department, and various volunteers to helped cook food for the firefighters at the firehall.

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in the city of Verndale, Minn., but is bent on making it as country as he can until he returns once more to the farm living he enjoys. Also living the dream are his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at or 218-640-2312.
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