Investigation begins in warehouse fires

Published 6:08 am Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Firefighters swift through the damage Tuesday from a large fire at three warehouses in Hollandale.

Firefighters swift through the damage Tuesday from a large fire at three warehouses in Hollandale. — Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

See a gallery of the damages here.

HOLLANDALE — Officials from the State Fire Marshal’s Office began combing through the wreckage Tuesday of the large fire that destroyed three warehouses in this community.

Two of the warehouses stored antique vehicles and other collectibles, while the third housed motorcycle and lawn mower parts for an online business. The warehouses were at 101 Netherlands Ave. W.

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“It’s years of work up in smoke,” said Craig Ferns, who rented the third warehouse for his business CF Distributing. “Decades of work, and in 10 minutes it’s gone.”

Ferns and partner Rick Peterson and warehouse owners Don and Irene Jones looked on Tuesday as firefighters began their investigation.

“I kicked my butt all day yesterday, saying if I had only been there,” Ferns said. “But if I had been I could have been trapped inside.”

He said he has heard that the fire started in the front office of his warehouse, where he likely would have been if he were there.

But how it began has still not been released.

Firefighters from at least 20 departments both in and outside of Freeborn County battled the blaze for more than eight hours in hot, humid conditions. The ruins were still smoldering Tuesday morning as numerous people could be seen driving by the buildings and looking at the damage.

Ferns and Don Jones said they did not have insurance on the buildings or their belongings.

“I’m just going to try to start over,” Ferns said.

Don Jones said he had 15 antique cars in the warehouse, including two Model Ts, and about 30 antique chainsaws, among other collectibles.

“It’s stuff I like to collect,” he said. “It’s not worth a lot of money, but I’ll never get it back.”

Two other people also rented out space in the back of one of the warehouses, he said.

Before the Joneses owned the property, the warehouses were part of a potato company that had been in the community for decades.