By Frank Crisler, The Arlington Sun; Reprinted with permission

A large facility on the northern edge of Arlington housing Top Lot Processors, was completely destroyed early Thursday morning [March 10] in a massive fire. The fire was reported at 2:20 a.m., and despite a quick response from the Arlington Volunteer Fire Department, was well underway before firefighters arrived.

The building, used to process minks, is approximately 65,000 square feet, with tall metal walls that were already glowing and rippling in places where the fire was burning hottest inside. It was impossible to enter the building, and so the firefighters concentrated on containing the fire, directing their hoses on the exterior walls and through any opening into the blazing interior.

The Arlington fire department was soon joined by the Badger crew, as well as Lake Preston, Volga, Sinai and Oldham firefighters. The Brookings fire department assisted with a ladder truck, able to direct streams of water into the interior of the building, and crews from Aurora, White, De Smet and Bruce also arrived to help.

At one point, more than 80 firefighters were on the scene, battling the fire. Despite that huge effort, the best that could be hoped for was to contain the blaze.

Wes Brown, who operates the Top Lot mink processing facility, said that virtually everything that could have burned inside the building was burned. Even at the west end, where the fire was coolest, a probe measured a temperature of more than 400 degrees.

Fortunately, there were no injuries at the fire, but the financial loss was estimated at more than $5 million.

The fire is being investigated by the SD Department of Criminal Investigation, the SD Fire Marshal and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The investigation by the SD agencies is routine for a large fire, and they requested the help of the ATF to add needed manpower.