Fire Destroys, Damages Large Part of Minnesota Town’s Main Street

February 4, 2016

A fast-burning fire destroyed or damaged at least a half-dozen commercial buildings in a small southern Minnesota community before firefighters brought it under control on Feb. 3, city officials said.

Stubborn winds from a storm that created blizzard-like conditions in the region fueled the fire on Main Street in the Watonwan County community of Madelia, a city of about 2,300 southwest of Mankato. The fire took out about two-thirds of the businesses on one side of Main Street, city administrator Jane Piepgras said. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

“We’re an older community and these businesses share common walls. It went fast,” Piepgras said.

A furniture store, a dentist office, a restaurant, an insurance agency and hair salon are among the businesses lost in the fire, city officials said.

“A lot of people’s livelihoods changed overnight,” Madelia Mayor Mike Grote said.

The fire apparently was ignited by an explosion in one of the businesses about 3 a.m., Grote said.

Firefighters from surrounding communities helped battle the blaze with temperatures in the teens. Tanker trucks hauling water to Main Street from area municipalities were hampered by icy and snow-covered roads as well as by curious onlookers who temporarily blocked access, Grote said.

Fire crews used an excavator to knock down at least one building to try to stop the blaze from spreading. Firefighters had the massive fire under control in about five hours, city leaders said.

“We had a wonderful business district. It’s going to have a big impact on the community,” Piepgras said.

The area is dealing with the aftermath of a powerful storm that closed highways on Feb. 2.

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