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The Sanford Center marquee and traffic lights at the intersection of Paul Bunyan Drive Southeast and First Street East were powerless for several minutes Monday afternoon, as a widespread power outage occurred at several locations around Bemidji. Pioneer Photo/Delaney Daly

Heat wave lingers: Residents, businesses, fire officials affected by heat Monday

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Even Bemidji, a city known for its wintry climate, has not been able to escape the unrelenting heat that has hit the Midwest.

Since June 1, there have been 11 days of temperatures exceeding 85 degrees. Temperatures in the high 70s and upper 80s have been consecutively present since July 15, causing people in Bemidji clamoring for ways to stay cool.

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Bemidji's southside Dairy Queen has noticed a significant increase in sales since the heat wave set in, said employee Nikki Nolden.

Being an outside business that operates only during the summer months, Nolden said the business has seen a boost in sales in recent weeks. The Dairy Queen store reported seeing lines of customers waiting for cold treats extending all the way to Paul Bunyan Drive Southeast.

Sears has seen a high demand from customers wanting to purchase air conditioners. The Bemidji store reported its units have been sold out all week.

"Ninety percent of our sales last Friday and Saturday were air conditioners," said Sears sales associate Jeff McBride.

McBride said there has been a high demand for air conditioners since Saturday, but customers have not been able to take one home since they have been sold out. Emergency trucks are on their way to ship more air conditioners to the store, but are not expected to arrive in Bemidji until next Saturday.

"Basically the entire Midwest has been demanding more air conditioners because of the heat front," McBride said.

Because of the scorching heat index, the National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for Bemidji and surrounding areas.

The heat advisory directs people to be aware that heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke and severe sunburn, can occur when spending too much time in the sun, particularly when hot temperatures and high humidity are present.

In order to avoid heat-related illnesses, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends people wear light- and loose-fitting clothing, drink lots of fluids and stay in a heavily shaded or air conditioned environment.

Some residents and businesses were without power yesterday afternoon when an electricity outage occurred around 2:40 p.m. For some this meant air conditioners and fans were not running during the hottest part of the day.

According to Beryl Wernberg, Beltrami County's emergency management director, outages were being reported in several different locations, including a half-mile south of the Paul and Babe statues, east of Bemidji, Nymore, Bemidji's Industrial Park and places near the southern Beltrami County line.

Wernberg said power company crews were working to get the electricity turned back on in these areas. The cause of the power outage was not determined as of Monday afternoon.

Bemidji Fire Department firefighters felt the heat Monday when a fire started in the attic of Keith's Pizza, located at 110 Paul Bunyan Drive S.E.

The fire was reported by employees of Keith's Pizza who noticed smoke in the building. Bemidji firefighters were able to quickly contain and extinguish the smoldering fire in the attic.

Fourteen firefighters used two fire engines and one ladder truck. No injuries were reported.

The fire caused an estimated $1,000 in damage to the building and appears to have been caused by the exterior sign light control, which was located in the attic, overheating.

The fire department was assisted at the scene by the Bemidji Police Department and Otter Tail Power Company.

Last weekend's thunderstorms also kept firefighters busy dealing with reports of downed trees and fires caused by lightning.

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