January 22, 1978: Fire destroys Consolidated grain elevators #4 and #5

On this day in Duluth in 1978, fire destroyed grain elevators #4 and #5 on Rice’s Point. According to grain elevator historian Dan Turner, “A worker patrolling the plant at 3:30 p.m. discovered a small fire below the wooden floorboards of the 80-year-old elevator #4 and immediately called for help. By the time firemen had arrived, most of the elevator was burning, and the effort shifted to saving elevator #5 and an adjacent ore boat—the Harry L. Allen, a 550-foot long rig carrying thousands of gallons of fuel oil—was wintering adjacent to the elevator…. At 4:30 p.m., an explosion blew part of the roof off the elevator—the blast spread fire throughout the rest of the building…. At 6:30 p.m., a large section of the elevator collapsed onto the Allen. Thankfully, there was no secondary explosion, and the elevator fire was contained and allowed to burn out. Firefighters stayed on the seen until 8 p.m. the next evening, when the fire finally burned itself out. Meanwhile, thousands of Duluthians came to watch the fire. Cars lined Skyline Parkway and other points on the hillside for a view. State troopers worked to keep traffic moving on the highway, as many drivers slowed to a crawl to watch the fire burn. Read Turner’s history of Duluth’s grain elevators here.

Duluth’s grain elevators row along Rice’s Point. (Image: Zenith City Press)