PERHAM, Minn. – Authorities are still in the early stages of an investigation into a fire that destroyed OK Tire in Perham late Tuesday, Dec. 13.
A Minnesota fire marshal visited the site early Wednesday, but Perham Fire Chief Mark Schmidt said cold temperatures have slowed the process and it's unlikely any further details, such as information on the source of the fire, will be available until after the weather warms up.
Official damage estimates have not been released, but Schmidt said he suspects, “It'll be a very high dollar loss. I think it’ll get close to $1 million.”
The fire was reported at about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, and crews from Perham and 12 additional area fire departments fought the blaze until nearly 4 a.m. Wednesday
The building was a total loss, as was everything in it.
No one was hurt as a direct result of the fire, but one firefighter was transported to the hospital with a non-life-threatening leg injury. That firefighter was back at home by Wednesday afternoon, Schmidt said.
Crews were forced to fight the blaze in extreme subzero temperatures. Schmidt said it reached 20 degrees below zero, with wind chill, which “makes everything challenging.”
“It takes a bigger toll on the firefighters,” he said. “You have to watch out for things like frostbite and falls ... We still have some froze-up trucks. You just have to be careful as can be.”
Sources at the scene Tuesday said the fire started on the north side of the building, but quickly took over the entire structure. OK Tire is located near the intersection of Minnesota Highway 78 and U.S. Highway 10, next to Lakes Area Co-op’s Oasis/Cenex gas station.
Cenex welcomed firefighters into the station throughout the ordeal, Schmidt said, offering them a place to warm up, get a hot cup of coffee and use the restrooms.
The Perham Fire Department worked alongside crews from Ottertail, Henning, Battle Lake, Vining, Dent, New York Mills, Vergas, Bluffton, Wadena, Pelican Rapids, Fergus Falls, Wolf Lake and Detroit Lakes. The Minnesota State Patrol, Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Department and Perham EMS were also on the scene.