Officials begin investigation into Duluth building blaze

The Duluth Fire Department gave an update Thursday on the investigation into a building fire in the Central Hillside neighborhood.
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 4:04 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - The Duluth Fire Department gave an update Thursday on the investigation into a building fire in the Central Hillside neighborhood.

Officials said the first call for the fire near 4th St. and 6th Ave. E. came in around 5:37 p.m., when the building housing the Lake Superior Medical Equipment Inc. and four apartments went up in flames.

Authorities said the building is now a “total loss.” No one was hurt.

Lisa Consie, the Fire Marshal for the Duluth Fire Department said, due to the structure being so damaged, “we can’t actually get inside to start performing that cause of origin invesitgation.”

The building is now condemned and deemed unsafe.

Two of the apartments above the medical supply store were occupied at the time of the fire. According to authorities, those displaced by the fire are getting help from the Red Cross.

Nearby businesses and restaurants were worried that the blaze would spread and damage their buildings. One of those restaurant owners was Debby Strop, who owns Uncle Loui’s Cafe, just steps away from where the fire began.

“Hopefully [Friday] we’ll be open at 6 a.m.,” Strop said.

She said her and some employees were putting away groceries for the restaurant when they saw the nearby building up in smoke.

“It was insane,” she said, “the fire was just wild.”

The restaurant was closed Thursday, but they plan to serve food Friday. There was no damage to the inside of the restaurant.

“We just cleaned the walls and tables and kithcen and got everything ready to open tomorrow,” Strop said.

According to Duluth Fire, 38 firefighters battled the flames with gallons of water. They called in help from Superior and the 148th Fighter Wing.

Strop said Uncle Loui’s roof was covered in a foot’s worth of debris. The inspector said they were lucky the roof was in good shape.

“We would’ve had a flood with that much water and weight on the roof,” she said.

As Uncle Loui’s finished their clean up, the investigation into what started the fire began.

Lisa Consie and her team have started to dive into what may have started the blaze.

“Contact witnesses, we search Facebook to see if people were witnessing and taking pictures,” she said, “we take photos ourselves when we get there.”

According to Consie, in a normal fire, they would go inside the building to look for clues.

“We’ll look to see what was burning and where the fire traveled,” Consie said, “and we’ll look for any kind of devices that may have started fires.”

Strop and other are happy that no one was hurt in the fire.

“I can breathe-that’s all-I can breathe,” Strop said.

The President of the Lake Superior Medical Equipment Inc., Tom Jamison, said he was in shock Wednesday night.

“Obviously, we’re still kind of stunned by by the news,” he said, “but we have a fabulous team at Lake Superior Medical Equipment.

He continued, “everyone is already rallying already trying to figure out how they can help.”

Although the Duluth location was destroyed by the fire, the Cloquet store is still open. Their phone number is (218)-879-2211.

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