Another Fire on Duluth’s First Street Causes ‘Total Loss’ for Building

DULUTH, Minn.– Another downtown Duluth building was charred by large flames and smoke Saturday.

“I don’t know it was pretty crazy. There were literally flames coming up out of the top of the building. It was really impressive to see it,” said Duluth resident Mallory Towle, who was watching firefighters put out the flames from across the street.

The cause of that fire on East First Street is still under investigation. Fire officials say there were no injuries found but that building is now a total loss with damages estimated at about $1 million according to officials.

“(It was) very crazy huge hot fire, billowing smoke hundreds of feet in the air,” said Jeff Johnson, who watched the fire with his family.

The Duluth Fire Department received the call at 9:31 a.m. Saturday morning responding to the scene within minutes and arriving at 9:32 a.m.

A spokesperson for the city believes the fire started on the third floor of the building but officials are still figuring out how the fire started.

The flames were so big it required a full alarm from the DFD, which called in crews from five different stations to put out the fire, spraying the building with a barrage of fire hoses.

“Fires that are large like this one, we need as many crews as we can get,” said Kate Van Daele, Public Information Officer for the city of Duluth. “Really what crews have been doing since their arrival has been on the defensive. What that means is we weren’t able to go into the building because of how large the fire was already.”

It took crews into the afternoon to finally douse the flames and smoke, and much of the roof collapsed. Officials don’t believe anyone was inside during the fire.

Fire officials say the owner told them the building had been used as a warehouse for the past few years. But was known previously as an antique shop.

As firefighters worked to extinguish the flames, people gathered around to get an up close look at the action.

“It was certainly the most dramatic fire I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Johnson.

Johnson brought his family up from the twin cities to see the sights in Canal Park. But they didn’t expect to be seeing the giant clouds of smoke and tall flames from Canal Park.

“It must’ve been about 9:45 (a.m.), closer to 10 (a.m.) and I saw the flames coming up so we walked up here and it was just billowing with black smoke everywhere,” said Johnson. “We were like, ‘What the heck is going on?'”

Others were on scene right as fire trucks rolled in to contain the flames. They were shocked at the sight of a fire like this in the heart of Duluth.

“I was heading North on 35 when I first saw the smoke. And at first I assumed like, ‘Wow, maybe it’s coming from The Depot,’” said Towle. “But the closer I got I realize there was a whole plume of smoke coming from downtown and I don’t know it was crazy. I obviously had to check it out ya know?”

The scene wasn’t anything new to that area. Just a few weeks ago, the old Kozy Bar and Apartments caught fire right across the street.

“It’s another hit for the small businesses in Duluth, which is a shame,” said Duluth resident Ryan Harrington.

As of around 4:30, crews were still on the scene of the fire battling hot spots.

Again how the fire started is still unknown but the Duluth Fire Marshall’s office is asking for the public’s help in identifying anyone who might have been in the area at the time of the fire as they investigate the cause.

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