Good neighbors come to the rescue of HL farmers

October 22, 2007

With impending weather, neighbors help harvest throughout the night

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

When the pride and joy of a farm operation goes up in flames, you can bet that the surrounding farm community will take that loss just as personally as if it was their own.

That’s exactly what happened south of Howard Lake Oct. 13 when Keith and Craig Brose’s combine suddenly started on fire while Keith Brose, his son-in-law, Gary Golka, and young grandson Aaron were harvesting beans.

Keith and Jeanne’s 10-month-old grandson was riding in the combine as part of the age-old practice of getting pictures combining with grandpa. Although Aaron was startled, he quickly got over the scare.

“I looked in the mirror and saw smoke. The fire started back in the engine area,” Keith said.

“We got out fine, and no one got hurt – that’s the most important thing,” Keith said.

Two fire extinguishers were used before the Howard Lake Fire Department arrived on scene, but the fire extinguishers had nearly no impact, according to Keith.

“They (the Howard Lake Fire Department) got there pretty fast, but it was too late. There’s so much plastic on those things, and I had a full tank of fuel,” Keith said.

In fact, Keith had just put 200 gallons of diesel fuel in the combine, and had only taken about 24 acres of beans off when the fire started.

Because the fuel tank was full, the surrounding bean ground that hadn’t been harvested yet was in danger of going up in flames as the fuel poured out of the combine.

“Wayne and Jeremy Birkholz were our first responders,” Keith said. They used their combine to take off the beans immediately around the fire.

Friends and neighbors that had finished their own harvest came to help the Broses finish their bean harvest before the looming rain arrived.

“Beans are so touchy to get out of the field. Conditions need to be near perfect – that’s why those guys worked through the night before the rain moved in,” Jeanne said.

There were a total of three combines that harvested all remaining Brose bean ground throughout the night until 6 a.m. Sunday morning.

In addition to the Birkholzes, Chuck, Mason, and Mark Horstmann used their combine to harvest Brose beans, and Josh Diers and Dave Otto ran grain trucks throughout the night. Broses rented a combine, as well, which was quickly brought to the farm after the combine fire.

“So many neighbors stopped and offered to help. It really was special,” Keith said.

“It was the true meaning of a ‘good neighbor.’ Without their generosity of time and equipment, we wouldn’t have gotten the beans in before the weather changed. We can’t thank them enough,” Jeanne said.

The Brose family can easily detail the sequence of events regarding the fire, but get very emotional when relaying the outpouring of help that they immediately received from surrounding farmers and friends.

Throughout the stress of the ordeal, the Broses have tried to keep a sense of humor whenever possible.

“After the fire, Craig was on the phone with one of the parts guys at an implement dealer, and Craig said, ‘We’re going to need a lot of parts,’” Keith laughed.

That laugh quickly faded to a genuinely grateful, yet serious tone when he added, “That was the dealer that brought out a combine for us to rent.”

“They’re trying to remain upbeat, but when something as expensive as a house burns down – it’s hard,” said family friend Josh Diers.

Although the combine was insured, the fire was still a huge hindrance and added stress to an operation that is time-sensitive and subject to Mother Nature.

The Broses are in the process of purchasing another combine. New or used combines are hard to find right now because they’re either in use or new ones need to be ordered from the factory.

“Shopping for a combine is 10 times worse than buying a car,” Craig said.

It is unknown why the fire started in the engine area, but the combine was a total loss.