One Building Deemed Total Loss after Duluth Fire

DULUTH, Minn. — On Wednesday, downtown Duluth was smoke-filled after a building caught fire in the Central Hillside neighborhood.

According to Duluth Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj, a fire was reported on 522 East Fourth Street at 5:37pm.

Engulfed in the flames was the Lake Superior Medical Equipment building and four apartment units above it.

38 Duluth firefighters worked to distinguish the fire, but soon realized it was more than they could handle.

Chief Krizaj stated that the station typically has three ladder trucks, which help attack fire from above, but yesterday one was in the shop.

“We were just in an unfortunate situation yesterday. One of our main trucks was in for some service, some routine maintenance on breaks and things like that.”

The city called the Superior Fire Department, who brought over its ladder truck to act in its place.

The 148th Fighter Wing was also brought to the scene with an air trailer to help fill the firefighters breathing gear fast and efficiently.

The chief says it’s not common for the department to call for extra help, but that a chain of uncontrolled forces played a role in the need.

“Does it happen often? No. Like I said, it’s the second time this has happened this year.”

Krizaj went on to say, that they had trouble getting the gas tanks turned off, which made the fire move fast.

High winds coming off of lake superior fanned the flames inside and out.

Not to mention, the medical building had oxygen equipment in the basement, adding to the rapid spread.

Fortunately, the medical store was closed and empty, and the apartment residents evacuated in time — thanks to the help of a bystander.

“One of the people at the nurses rally, I believe he was actually a volunteer firefighter somewhere, he came and made an entry up there. He knocked on some doors and got two people, or I don’t know if it was two families, but he helped clear two of the apartments as we were coming up on the scene,” said Krizaj.

The fire was contained by around 10:30pm and crews stayed on scene to monitor it through the night and into Thursday.

The single building seems to be a total loss, but the buildings on either side it, Uncle Loui’s Cafe and the former spot of Dunbar Floral & Gifts, made it out still standing.

Krizaj stated that those affected by the fire, including the apartment residents who lived in the building and those affected by the overnight gas and power shutoff on the block, were offered temporary housing and more support through the Red Cross.

No injuries have been reported and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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