Firefighters Battle Hours-Long Fire at Historic Downtown Hibbing Building
The cause of the Moose Event Center fire is still unknown and under investigation.
HIBBING, Minn.- No one was injured fighting an inferno Tuesday that collapsed the roof of the Moose Event Center on Howard Street in Hibbing, according to fire officials. But what does hurt to the small town, is the loss of a building that houses many businesses and memories.
“As I stood outside and watched it just kept, no matter how much water it got worse, and worse, and worse,” said Marybeth Perreira, who watched from the Androy Hotel across the street.
Around 10:30 Tuesday morning smoke swallowed the Moose Lodge 1510 and Event Center. “Approximately 30 minutes after arrival we had a full roof collapse on the structure,” Hibbing Fire Chief Erik Jankila said.
“We made a tactical decision to go defensive early on in the fire. It wasn’t worth risking somebody’s life to put them into a building that’s partially collapsed,” he said. The cause of the fire is unknown and still under investigation.
That was when Jankila knew it was no ordinary structure fire for their small Iron Range city.
“In the 25 years that I’ve been here we’ve only had a few handful of major downtown fires so it’s something that we prepare for, something that we train for, but it’s not something that we see on a regular basis,” said the Chief.
Nine crews from Hibbing, all the way to Virginia and Grand Rapids responded. “If it weren’t for the men and women that took the time out of the day to respond to our time of need we probably would not have been able to contain the fire to the building of origin,” Jankila said.
Working through smoke, those Iron Range emergency personnel broke down windows to blast water at the multitude of flames that raged for over seven hours.
“When you have a building of this magnitude and the roof structure that you have and you have the amount of debris that has collapsed on top of stuff that’s burning, it’s gonna smolder for a long time,” he said.
According to Chief Jankila, the buildings surrounding the fire were evacuated immediately with the help of the Sheriff’s Department, Highway Patrol and local Police. Those buildings suffered fixable smoke and water damage.
“They are my whole downtown; it breaks my heart, I have to say,” said Perreira, as she remembered watching from her window. “Nothing can be replaced and we used to be the hub of the Iron Range…and now it’s gone.”
So residents watched as officials fought to save the decades old building long into Tuesday evening — a hangout for all types of people.
“It’s like ‘oh no it’s the tobacco shop, it’s the Moose, it’s Mike’s Pub!’ Its’s like — it’s heartbreaking,” lifelong Hibbing resident Gerri Borbiconi said. “It hurts. ”
A community gathering place, that now has little hope of holding town events again. “I’d like it to be, but I kinda don’t think it will be,” said Borbiconi.
“We had some good bowling banquet up there, good wedding receptions out there, class reunions,” she said. “So it’s just a loss for Hibbing.”