SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) – About two weeks ago, a fire destroyed a building and offices at the Rock Valley Hay Auction in Iowa.
The fire broke out on the night of January 11. The next day, the auction house started selling hay again.
“Our operations continue as the sun rises,” said owner Paul McGill. January 12th is auction day.
McGill has owned the company ever since. February 1, 1996. The business dates back to the 40’s. It has a history of supplying hay and straw to farmers and ranchers in the region, as well as across the country when needed in other areas.
McGill said he was lucky the fire didn’t burn any dry grass. “We always have a lot of hay to sell,” he said.
Ninety-two and a half hay left Rock Valley the morning after the fire. Most of the hay was doing business the night of the fire.
Where and where the hay comes from varies from auction to auction and from year to year, he said.
Many regular customers are feedlots in Northwest Iowa and the area.
“Right now, we’re sending a lot of supplies to Kansas and Oklahoma. It’s not normal,” McGill said.
When there are dry or snowy conditions like this month, there will be demand for hay outside of this region.
“This morning we got the shipment into Yankton and Davis,” McGill said on Jan. 25.
Hay supplies are now more difficult in areas of South Dakota that experienced heavy snowfall in December and early January, McGill said.
“In the Winner area, for example, a lot of people who sell hay have their own cattle. Now two things are happening, they’re feeding more of their own hay to the cattle, and the feed is harder to come by,” McGill said.
McGill deals with an important commodity. So when he heard the company caught fire on Jan. 11, “it wasn’t a good time.”
Rock Valley Fire Chief Brent Eshuis said thick black smoke and flames were coming from the scene when the department arrived. “Within 30 seconds to a minute, the buildings were sparkling and everything was on fire,” he said.
Firefighters knew there would be square and round hay bales at the scene, he said.
Many straw bales have some snow.
“It would be worse without the snow,” Eshuis said.
Firefighters focused on controlling the fire. “We never thought about putting anyone in,” Eshuis said.
He said Rock Valley and nearby Hull had a mutual agreement for the fire service to come to the rescue when there was a structure fire in either town.
The fire department at the Sioux Center also deployed aerial trucks, Eshuis said.
Firefighters were on scene for about 3.5 hours, Eshuis said.
McGill said the auction house lost a store building, its equipment, an office building and its computers and other items.
He called his computer services department on Jan. 11, and McGill said the business worked overnight to make sure the auction house had computers available on Jan. 12.
For now, McGill said, the business operates out of construction site-style trailers.
It works fine during the busiest time of year.
“We sell more hay than anyone else,” he said. “Winter is busy because the cows eat more hay.”
In winter, hay auctions are held twice a week until 1 May.
McGill said the fire likely started in the engine compartment of a truck parked at the store.