By Ryan Johnson
Forum News Service
FERGUS FALLS, Minn. – Two firefighters were injured here battling a downtown fire that left one building a total loss, displaced several residents and damaged five businesses.
Fire Chief Mark Hovland said a report of light smoke in the hallway of upstairs apartments at 218½ W. Lincoln Ave. was called in at 10:23 p.m. Sunday. Police were first to arrive, and when they couldn’t account for the tenants of one of the four apartment units, firefighters shifted into rescue mode and went inside.
He said they quickly determined that no one was inside, and focused on trying to get the blaze under control. Two Fergus Falls firefighters were injured as they worked through the night, one falling down a set of steps and breaking his hand. He was undergoing surgery Monday morning.
Another firefighter was treated at the scene for heat exhaustion, Hovland said.
Hovland said the fire was “touch and go” at times throughout the night, with firefighters being forced to leave the building and attempt to get the fire under control from outside.
“We got to the point where we got flames to the roof and then the smoke conditions deteriorated inside,” he said.
The fire was extinguished by early Monday morning, and most emergency responders had left the scene by 11 a.m.
Hovland said the cause of the fire is still being determined, but the latest speculation is that it may have been an electrical fire that apparently started in the attic on the north side of the building.
There was no estimate of damage immediately available. Hovland said the four apartment units on the second floor and the three businesses that occupied the building’s two ground floor spaces would likely be a total loss because of fire, smoke and water damage.
Owner Doug Dietman said the setback is “not a problem” for Nice Threads Custom Embroidering, which shares space with Lake Country Graphics in one of the building’s two retail spaces.
“Everything in there was replaceable,” he said.
Dietman said Nice Threads can continue to work with other vendors and still has its designs so business can continue until Lake Country Graphics, a separate company he partners with, is back up and running.
Beauty salon operator Curl Up and Dye, which occupies the other ground-floor retain space in the historic brick building, also was hit hard with smoke and water damage.
Hovland said a contractor was on the scene Monday trying to determine if one of the walls is stable enough to save the building.
He said the two businesses located on either side of the building, The Spot Panini and Wine to the west and Attitudes for Hair to the east, weren’t directly affected by the fire but sustained water damage.
Hovland said eight residents and five families were displaced, though many were expected to be able to return home Monday to their apartments farther down the block that weren’t affected by the fire but were evacuated as a precaution Sunday night. He said about 115 firefighters helped get the blaze under control, with Fergus Falls being assisted by 12 other departments, including another ladder truck from Perham.