The evacuation order for Clinton, Minnesota — in place as crews battled a monstrous grain elevator fire — has been lifted, but life for the town's residents is far from back to normal.
Nearly eight hours after the blaze was first reported, people living within three blocks of the Wheaton-Dumont Elevator were allowed to return to their homes, the Big Stone County Sheriff's Office announced.
Throughout the day, public safety agencies and volunteers battled the fire, which fully engulfed the elevator office and grain towers. A dozen fire departments from nearby communities responded, as did the State Fire Marshals and the county's Emergency Management.
"So thankful for all the fire departments that provided mutual assistance to the Clinton Fire Department yesterday!" wrote one Facebook user who lives nearby. "All of you make me so proud to be living in rural Minnesota where communities come together! Stay safe always and thanks again!"
Highway 75 was closed to through traffic to allow for water pumping operations from Lake Eli, with farmers, businesses, and Big Stone County highway workers. helping to haul water. Residents of Clinton were asked to stop using water.
The largest portion of the structure collapsed by the afternoon.
Sunday evening marked a turning point. Around 6:20 p.m., the city began allowing normal household water use, though asked people to refrain from outdoor watering. The evacuation order was lifted around 7:40 p.m., with residents who live near the blaze returning to their homes.
Precautions and restrictions remain in place.
The Highway 75 detour lasted through the night, and will be re-evaluated Monday morning, the sheriff's office said. Park Street and the area "immediately surrounding" the grain elevator will likely be closed off into the "near future," with the sheriff's office saying remaining structures might be unstable because of damage sustained in the blaze.
Any residents with breathing or health issues are also being urged by the Big Stone Sheriff's Office to "take appropriate steps to ensure their safety."
A woman who lives nearby said Monday morning the smell of smoke was prominent.
"The dust will settle.. The strength will remain. Please keep everyone in your thoughts & prayers," wrote another Facebook user, with the words "CLINTON STRONG" over an image of the now-gone grain elevator.