WINONA, Minn. -- A pair of buildings were destroyed and dozens of
people were displaced after an overnight fire in downtown Winona on
Investigators are still searching for the cause of
the blaze that moved quickly through the attics of older buildings.
Luckily, no one was injured.
"We had a heck of a time trying to
stop it from going from attic to attic," Asst. Fire Chief Britt
Hendrickson said as crews mopped up hotspots and hauled away debris
"It started somewhere in the back of this building or
the one in the backside," he added, pointing to an Islamic Center and
Luai Elfaki, a Sudanese student at the nearby
University, smelled the smoke, woke up the girls in the apartment down
the hall, and sprinted out of the Islamic building. He lived in a second
"We lost everything," he said.
He lost his
certificate of citizenship, his student ID and his laptop. He spent the
better part of his day trying to replace those items.
"I feel very sad, but at the same time I'm very happy because I'm alive," he said.
said they used a trench cut to stop the fire from spreading further
down the block, saving several other buildings and dozens of apartments.
They saved Danielle Koch's place.
"I just started to cry because
it's my whole life. I've been up there for three years," she said,
describing the moment she rushed out of her building.
Though there is a glaring hole in the heart of Winona, this could have been much worse.
"It did not look good for awhile and so it was an excellent save," Asst. Chief Hendrickson said.
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