Winona businesses assess damage after downtown fire

| September 16, 2013 | 0 Comments
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WINONA, Minn. – The owners of buildings and businesses damaged in last week’s fire in downtown Winona are inventorying their losses.

Three buildings were a total loss in Friday’s blaze that burned several businesses, apartments and a mosque in an older part of the downtown area.

Torry Moore owns a sporting goods store called Sole Sport. Moore tells Minnesota Public Radio that since his building is “pretty much gone,” he’s looking for another location where he can tally his inventory. Moore says most of it is likely lost.

Amy Jo Marks owns a clothing store, Pretty Things on Third, which was damaged in the fire. Marks says all of her fall inventory had arrived and is now covered in smelly soot.

Investigators continue to look for the cause of the fire, which they believe started in the Islamic Center.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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WINONA, Minn. (AP) Three buildings were a total loss in Friday’s blaze that damaged five total buildings including numerous businesses, apartments and even a mosque in an older part of downtown Winona, Fire Chief Curt Bittle said.

Bittle said the fire apparently began in the Winona Islamic Center several hours before it was reported around 2 a.m. Friday. He said center’s roof had already collapsed when firefighters arrived. Arson hasn’t been ruled out, so if there’s any hint the Islamic Center was targeted, investigators have already been in touch with state and federal authorities to assist.

Firefighters battle a blaze early Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, in Winona, Minn. Firefighters contained the large blaze that burned several buildings housing businesses, apartments and a mosque, Fire Chief Curt Bittle said. The fire chief said it may have started in the Winona Islamic Center, though that had not been confirmed. The state fire marshal will investigate, he said. (AP Photo/Winona Daily News, Andrew Link)

Firefighters battle a blaze early Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, in Winona, Minn. Firefighters contained the large blaze that burned several buildings housing businesses, apartments and a mosque, Fire Chief Curt Bittle said. The fire chief said it may have started in the Winona Islamic Center, though that had not been confirmed. The state fire marshal will investigate, he said. (AP Photo/Winona Daily News, Andrew Link)

Laui El-Faki lived above the Islamic Center.

“I don’t know where the fire started, but I saw fire all around the area,” he said.

The fire chief expressed relief that nobody was hurt and that the destruction wasn’t worse.

“At one point I really thought we were going to lose the entire block,” Bittle said.

Firefighters contained the blaze by mid-morning after six hours of fighting, and crews knocked down some storefronts to extinguish the debris.

Of the three destroyed buildings, one housed the Islamic Center and another housed the Brosnahan Law Firm. The fire also displaced more than a dozen residents of upstairs apartments. The Red Cross was assisting them.

Officials did not have a damage estimate.

Mayor Mark Peterson, who is also director of the Winona County Historical Society, said it was sad to lose historic buildings. But he said he’s proud of all of those who helped contain the fire.

“We’re going to do what we can to get this cleaned up. It could have been a lot worse than it was,” Peterson said.

Ahmed El-Afandi, a retired political science professor at Winona State University who founded the Islamic Center, said there had been no threats against the mosque.

Buildings that house Sole Sport, Blooming Grounds and Integrative Health also were among those heavily damaged.

Paul Brosnahan said his law office was a total loss, “but fortunately, our business records are all backed up electronically off-site.”

(AP Photo/Winona Daily News, Andrew Link)

(AP Photo/Winona Daily News, Andrew Link)

The fire “got into an attic, and it was jumping from building to building,” he said, relaying information he received from fire officials. “I had an apartment with three young (Winona State University) sophomores. Fortunately, all three young girls are safe.”

Jake Lindberg, who also lived above the law office, said all of his belongings were inside.

“I like some of the things I have,” he told the Winona Daily News as he looked at sooty water pouring from the building’s front entrance. “But I like life more.”

As the search for the cause goes on, so do the hunt for new homes.

“What do you do now?” Winona State student Emma Wallace said. “I’ll try to get in and get our stuff like our new laptops, because we heard there was soot an inch or two thick.”

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Winona Minn. (AP) -

Winona Fire Chief Curt Bittle says three buildings are a total loss in a blaze that damaged several structures on a block of downtown Winona.

Bittle tells reporters the fire apparently began in the Winona Islamic Center. He says it appears the fire burned for some time before it was reported around 2 a.m. Friday. He says the cause has not been determined. The state fire marshal will investigate.

The fire was contained around mid-morning. Crews then knocked down some storefronts so they could extinguish the debris.

The three buildings that were destroyed include the one that housed the Islamic Center, and another that the Brosnahan Law Firm.

The fire also displaced more than a dozen residents of upstairs apartments, but there were no injuries.

 

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