WADENA — A cigarette container fueled by wind spread a fire into a second floor apartment hallway Wednesday morning that caused extensive damage and displaced tenants in Wadena's historic downtown.

The cause was deemed accidental following an investigation by the Minnesota State Fire Marshal's Office.

Firefighters knocked down the active fire minutes after it was reported at 11:17 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 20, at 202 1/2 Jefferson Street South. While the fire was fought from the east side of the building smoke rolled out to the west and down mainstreet.

Flames could be seen pouring out from the rear of an apartment as emergency workers fought the blaze above the KSKK Radio office. The apartments are above All Around Divas, Lorna's Beauty Shop and Brink's Jewelry, and a total of seven apartment unit tenants were displaced, according to the fire department news release.

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Black smoke was pouring out over downtown Wadena as a fire was burning the upper floor apartments above All Around Divas and Brinks Jewelry.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Black smoke was pouring out over downtown Wadena as a fire was burning the upper floor apartments above All Around Divas and Brinks Jewelry. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Prior to arrival of fire personnel, tenants from inside the building were alerted to smoke filling the apartment hallway, and the landlord attempted to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher, before it grew and and was out of control. All tenants were able to escape the building without injury. Fire personnel setup two engine companies to establish attack lines and water supply, according to the Wadena Fire Department. The first due engine setup in the alleyway and ran an attack line up the staircase that ran up to the back roofing area and was able to attack the fire from the east side of the building. The second due engine setup an attack line on the west side of the building on Jefferson Street and was able to gain access through the main entryway door to the upstairs apartments and was able to conduct a search sweep of the units quickly and extinguish the fire. Fire personnel quickly went into overhaul and were able to mop up hot spots and check for fire extension. A one square block area was blocked off for approximately 90 minutes around the incident and traffic on Jefferson Street was diverted.

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At All Around Divas, a few customers and manager Sarah Hanna were in the store and all made it out safely. Co-owner Randy Peterson said they could hear yelling upstairs and smoke was coming into the store.

“It’s not going to be good,” Peterson said of the damage. “We’ve only been in here just over a month, and spent about a year getting it ready and the way we wanted it, got everything pretty much moved over. It is what it is.”

“As long as nobody got hurt and everybody got out,” he added, “you can always rebuild, you can always buy more clothes, get more stuff it’s just not easy getting stuff right now, … everything takes forever. If you order something now it takes three months for it to come in.”

Seven individual apartment units were considered uninhabitable due to smoke damage, minor water damage to two units, and power being disconnected. Displaced tenants were to be placed in temporary housing and were assisted by the Red Cross. In addition to the apartment damage, KSKK Radio and All Around Divas Boutique received smoke damage, and Lorna’s Salon received smoke and water damage. Also Taste of Columbia and the apartments above received smoke damage. A total of 15 fire personnel from Wadena Fire Department responded to this incident.

Along with Wadena firefighters were Verndale firefighters, Wadena Police Department, Wadena County Sheriff’s Office, Tri County Ambulance, Minnesota State Patrol, Wadena City Public Works, and Red Cross. Several volunteers including two retired firefighters also helped stop the devastating fire.