GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — Two Grand Rapids organizations are making contingency plans and contemplating the future after their historic downtown buildings were ravaged by a weekend fire.
The Lakeview Behavioral Health and VFW Post 1720 buildings were deemed total losses after the blaze broke out at the clinic, 20 NW Third St., shortly before 9 p.m. Saturday and quickly spread to the club next door. A cause had yet to be identified as of Monday, March 9.
On Monday, Lakeview was redirecting clients with appointments to its other Grand Rapids facility, about a half-mile south at 516 S. Pokegama Ave. Meanwhile, the VFW was seeking a temporary space to maintain "bare bones" operations while considering whether to rebuild.
Hugh Quinn, commander of the VFW post, said he had a meeting with insurance representatives Monday. Financial losses should be covered, he said, but some things lost in the blaze aren't replaceable.
"We lost a lot of pictures," Quinn said. "We lost a lot of things that had been filed away upstairs because there just wasn't room for them anywhere else in the club."
The roof collapsed at the 115-year-old VFW building, 14 NW Third St., and Quinn said he was told well over 500,000 gallons of water were pumped into the structures as firefighters fought to contain the fire. But crews were able to salvage some of the most important artifacts, including classic "Eisenhower" jackets that had been worn all over the world by veterans.
"One of the Cohasset (firefighters) who's a first Gulf War vet — or Operation Desert Storm — apparently he led the charge and knew where all the memorabilia was," Quinn said. "So they went in and pulled it all out of the display cabinets. They got the 'Ike jackets' that were hanging upstairs in our offices and they secured them for us at the fire department. So they saved a lot of stuff, just a ton of stuff."
Quinn said a regular membership meeting was already scheduled for Tuesday night, so members will gather at the American Legion to discuss the VFW's future. The club has slightly more than 300 members, he said.
"This community is already rallying for us," Quinn said. "There are folks talking about fundraisers and stepping up. Right now, we're looking for a small space to set up our operation to make sure we can continue with at least the bare bones that we normally would do."
Tom Johnson, CEO of Lakeview Behavioral Health, said there was minimal disruption to clinic services since records are maintained electronically and the organization has the second office nearby. It's a "tight squeeze," but services will continue under one roof for the time being.
"Once we got over the initial shock of it, the logistics have been pretty simple," Johnson said. "We had to replace quite a few computers, but from there we can access everything we need to run smoothly."
Johnson started Lakeview about four years ago, merging with Rapids Counseling in 2017. Mental health services were provided at the downtown building that is now lost, while the second building housed substance use disorder services.
Johnson said plans have been in the works to consolidate the services into a single location at some point, but the fire "kind of forced our hand."
"We've been growing rapidly over the last few years and we want to continue our growth and be able to offer more services and programs to the community," he said. "We will need to move into a bigger space to be able to do that."
The fire also caused some minor smoke and water damage to the neighboring Wells Fargo Bank. The Grand Rapids Fire Department and State Fire Marshal's Office are investigating the cause and did not have any updates as of Monday. Estimated monetary damages also had not been calculated.