WINONA, Minn. -A large blaze that consumed or badly damaged a handful of buildings in downtown Winona has apparently been contained.
Winona Fire Chief Curt Bittle says fire crews are still hosing down the buildings, and have begun demolishing some of the storefronts to extinguish debris that's still burning.
The fire broke out about 2 a.m. Chief Bittle says it may have started in the Winona Islamic Center, though that has not been confirmed. The state fire marshal will investigate.
The latest information says seven or eight buildings 7-8 are either destroyed or heavily damaged.A dozen people with apartments in the impacted buildings have been displaced, and arebeing housed at Winona State University and a local hotel.
The Winona Daily News reports that as of 6:25 a.m., Second and Third Streets between Main and Lafayette streets are blocked off, as is Fourth Street between Center and Walnut streets. Law enforcement is urging drivers to find alternate routes and not come near the scene.
Among the businesses housed in the affected buildings are the Blooming Grounds Coffeehouse,Sole Sport, Integrative Health and Brosnahan Law Firm.
The Daily News says fire has torn through many of the buildings, and firefighters expect it may continue to spread, Bittle said. He is worried that the hodgepodge of construction on the old buildings, all of which are connected, could easily allow the fire to find boxed in pockets that will allow it to keep spreading.
Rural fire departments are now on call for first responder and medical calls within the city of Winona, and a number of community departments are working the fire working mutual aid.