BEMIDJI-Although the source is still unknown, the large-scale structure fire that destroyed an auto shop and two apartments in January has been ruled accidental.
The fire ignited in the afternoon of Jan. 19, the same time Hockey Day Minnesota was underway at the South Shore near the Sanford Center.
"I don't believe we're going to be able to figure out the exact cause," Bemidji Fire Chief Dave Hoefer said. "It's certainly looking like it's accidental in nature at this point; (there's) no reason to think it's suspicious."
While the cause of the fire may be unknown, Hoefer said it began in the center of the first floor of the building, where Class A Auto was located.
The fire broke out around 4 p.m., initially emitting large plumes of smoke. As firefighters continued to work throughout the evening, though, the flames began showing and growing through the roof.
In fact, hockey fans could eventually see the flames rise up above the roof from the Hockey Day Minnesota arena that was set up in the parking lot of the Sanford Center.
Located at the intersection of Central Avenue Southeast and Second Street in the Nymore neighborhood, the building was ultimately still standing by the time firefighting crews drove away, but it has been compromised beyond repair, Hoefer said.
The future plans for the building and its lot are currently unknown.