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Winona fire chief says 3 downtown buildings are a total loss

Published 1:42pm Saturday, September 14, 2013

WINONA  — Three buildings were a total loss in Friday’s blaze that damaged several businesses, apartments and a mosque in an older part of downtown Winona, Fire Chief Curt Bittle said.

Bittle told reporters the fire apparently began in the Winona Islamic Center several hours before it was reported around 2 a.m. He said center’s roof had already collapsed when firefighters arrived.

Bittle said the cause of the fire had not been determined, and there were no immediate signs of arson. He said that the state fire marshal would investigate.

The fire chief expressed relief that nobody was hurt and that the destruction wasn’t worse.

“At one point I really thought we were going to lose the entire block,” Bittle said.

Bittle and Winona Police Chief Paul Bostrack told a news conference Friday that there is nothing to indicate that any foul play is involved, the Winona Daily News reported.

Firefighters contained the blaze by midmorning, and crews knocked down some storefronts to extinguish the debris.

Of the three destroyed buildings, one housed the Islamic Center and another housed the Brosnahan Law Firm. The fire also displaced more than a dozen residents of upstairs apartments. The Red Cross was assisting them.

Officials did not have a damage estimate.