June 25 and June 26 were not good days in the history of Becker, Minnesota. In only 12 hours, disaster stacked up on disaster for the small community. Near catastrophe set the entire town on edge like an over caffeinated speed freak.
In midafternoon, June 25, 3 pm to be exact, fire alarms rang out throughout the town. The landmark potato warehouse, the storage facility of the Knutson and Gongoll store, began to burn. Becker did not have any type of firefighting equipment at the time. Men fought the conflagration as a bucket brigade until responders from Big Lake and Clear Lake arrived. While the neighboring firefighters fought the flames on the warehouse, the bucket brigade turned their attention to nearby homes and other buildings. The gas pumps at the Hy-Way Inn were drenched with water to prevent explosion. The shingles of the A. G. Stevens building smoldered and extinguished four separate times. And, the flames reached the Merton Dyson home before being drenched out. More than four hours after the initial alarms rang, the fire was finally a smoldering heap of defeated destruction.
To insure the fire was completely extinguished, George Short and Ronald Cox were appointed fire watchers. Their job was to sit by the smoldering wreckage of the warehouse and sound alarms if the fire erupted once again. A straightforward task, stay awake and sound alarms if the fire re-erupted.
Early in the morning, at 1:30 am, Cox and Short witnessed a second disaster to strike Becker. The second event came so unexpectedly, neither man moved out of the car until the crisis had passed. A train, headed towards St. Cloud, pulling 80 cars, jumped the tracks. The last 16 cars of the train, carrying cement, grain and dynamite lurched off the track and slid towards the smoldering warehouse and two watchmen. The railcars came to a halt six feet in front of the car the two men were sitting in.
New alarms blared and the entire community responded to the new disaster. After the initial shock, Becker residents began the clean-up of a second disaster that had threatened the town. Luckily, the train stopped short of the burning warehouse, and no lives were lost in either mishap. Yet, in less than 12 hours, the life of the entire community Becker had twice been threatened. Stress and excitement jumped to a new level for the residents. Clean up of the fire and train wreck would take several weeks. It all began on June 25 and June 26, challenging days Becker, Minnesota.