ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — The state fire marshal is investigating the cause of a fire that destroyed four downtown businesses in Alexandria Tuesday, Feb. 25.
More than 100 firefighters, police officers, sheriff's deputies, posse members and first responders were at the scene of the blaze on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway in downtown Alexandria.
As of about 3 p.m. Tuesday, all the firefighters, except those from the Alexandria Fire Department, were released from the scene after undergoing a precautionary medical check.
No injuries were reported.
Four fire-damaged businesses were demolished — RM Tattoo, Raapers Eatery and Ale, Charlie's Bazaar and Little Darlings Children's Boutique — and two other businesses were directly impacted, Hidden Treasures and Achieve Wellness Chiropractic Center.
The blaze, which was reported at 4:34 a.m., is believed to have originated in or near the Raapers building.
Apartment buildings on that side of the block were evacuated, displacing about 20 residents who lived above the businesses, according to city communications coordinator Sara Stadtherr. Displaced residents were taken to the Alexandria Fire Station. The Red Cross and several volunteers are assisting them.
Many people have asked what they can do to help the displaced residents but at the moment there is no system set up to collect items, Stadtherr said. "Their immediate needs are being met. We ask for everyone’s patience in long-term needs coordination."
The fire presented challenges for firefighters.
"These are older buildings," said Alexandria Police Captain Scott Kent, adding there are many places for the fire and smoke to hide because of false ceilings and voids.
It was too soon, he said, to establish where exactly the fire started.
Alexandria Light and Power was contacted to increase water flow in the area to get more water to the hoses.
As the firefighting work continues, city officials are asking the public to use caution in the area. Motorists and pedestrians are asked to avoid the area, which is barricaded.
"Please do not drive over any fire hoses," Stadtherr said. "The city parking lot on the west side of Broadway between 5th and 6th is closed. Please allow extra time for travel through the Alexandria downtown area."
Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, released the following statement regarding the fire:
“I thank God that there were no injuries, but as a community we are devastated by the loss of these businesses, these homes, and these pieces of our history,” said Franson. “I want to thank our first responders and the many volunteer firefighters that have been fighting this fire all day. They are truly heroes. Our community is strong, and we will come together to help those who have been impacted.”
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, also issued a statement:
“Today, the community of Alexandria experienced a devastating fire that has resulted in the loss of businesses, homes, and parts of our city’s cherished history,” he said. “While we mourn these losses, I thank god knowing that nobody was killed in this tragedy. I want to extend a thank you to the first responders for their quick and tireless work and will keep them in my thoughts as they continue to bring the fire under control.”
Ingebrigtsen added, “This is a difficult time for everyone in Alexandria but more so for families and businesses impacted by this fire. I want to thank everyone in the community for already rallying around these folks, and offering their support. While we grieve for this loss, it is without a doubt that Alexandria will rise above this.”