by Jim Boyle
A preliminary investigation shows a commercial building fire on Dec. 7 was likely electrical, according to Elk River Fire Chief Mark Dickinson.
Elk River Police and Fire were called at 7:34 p.m. that night to D and S Sales, 13211 Highway 10, on a report of smoke and flames emanating from the roof.
An officer arrived and observed smoke coming from the business and flames from the center of the south side roof. The officer confirmed no occupants were in the building and spoke with the business owner, who had been summoned by the person who rents the house behind the business on the same property after noticing the smoke and fire.
Firefighters from Elk River and Big Lake were able to quickly respond and knock the fire inside the business down. Some of the sparks from a fan mounted high on a wall inside the shop just outside the office is believed to have possibly shorted out.
“What gave us problems was there was a steel false ceiling between the roof and the (office area and breakroom) that has insulation in it,” Dickinson said. “Anytime you get a spark from a fire that will travel a distance and land in insulation and sit there, you’ll see the fire start back up again after 20 minutes or so after you have knocked it down.”
Fire crews were able to hand the building back over to the owners Donavan and Sher Goosen and clear the scene by 10:30 p.m. The exterior of the building still stands tall, but there was significant fire and water damage inside.
The Goosens are now faced with the question of what to do next as they work with their insurance company and look for few thousand square feet of warehouse space to get up and running again.
Donavan, 63, said he was thankful for his renter alerting him and the quick response by fire crews.
The Goosens started the auto parts business in 1988 in Frankfort Township and bought the Elk River location in 1995. The shop and the house were a package deal, so the Goosens, who had a home in Elk River already, have rented the single-family home.
The Elk River couple sell parts to dealers. The Goosens’ daughter Jen Holland and her son Wyatt Holland help them run the business.
While gripped with questions of what to do next, Donavan said it would be a lot worse if it been a house fire and a family had been displaced.
When the original call came in as a commercial building fire, Dickinson said thoughts of a bigger building and much taller task crossed his mind. It was a smaller shop than he first envisioned, and although flames were reportedly showing through the roof, the fire didn’t necessarily breach the roof with the flames, Dickinson said.
“The beams had burned through in a section, so it sagged. It probably looked like it was coming out of a hole.”
Unfortunately, there was still a significant amount of damage inside by fire and the efforts needed to extinguish it, Dickinson said.
“The exterior of the building is in great shape; it was all interior,” he said. “It’s also got significant water damage. It was a well-built building. It’s hard to say what’s going to happen with it.”
No one was injured on the scene.
“The cold weather is always problematic,” he said. “We got lucky. There were no slips or falls.”
Both Big Lake and Zimmerman were called in for mutual aid, with Big Lake arriving quickly, since they had already been out for something else.
Some of the Elk River Fire Department’s new trainees also came to watch and learn. The department has 14 new hires in preparation for the new fire station on the east side of town. Three of them were able to start right away and 11 are enrolled in the fire academy.
“We’re really excited,” Dickinson said. “They’re a really good group of people, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our instructors, the people that teach the academy. We have some of our firefighters that have consistently been instructors that have been amazing.”
Dickinson did note, however, the department is still struggling to find enough people on that side of town, in a town that will be divided in two for the next three road construction seasons as Highway 169 is converted to a freeway.