Wind-driven fire destroys garage, damages nearby buildings in West Duluth
T.J. Welsand was driving to a lawn job when he saw smoke rolling across Grand Avenue early Wednesday evening. Thinking quickly, Welsand pulled into the alley, where he saw smoke emanating from the garage behind the home on the 3700 block of Grand Avenue.
“I knocked on his door and told him the garage was on fire and to get out of the house,” Welsand said, shortly after the fire engulfed the garage and melted power lines, cutting power to the block.
Welsand’s good Samaritan routine helped to ensure there were no human casualties, but the garage and car inside were total losses.
“Fire crews did an exemplary job of keeping it out of the houses,” Assistant Duluth Fire Chief Chris Martinson said. “That was my biggest concern. If it had gone into there we would have had trouble with this wind.”
Eight companies and 28 firefighters responded to the fire, as well as Duluth police, who closed traffic on a portion of Grand for a short time.
The home-dweller was visibly shaken and declined to talk to the News Tribune.
Siding on the vacant garage next door was burned to a crisp. Across the alley, kitty-corner from Wade Stadium, where the PA announcer could be heard calling the baseball game, another garage’s siding was melted and crimped like bacon. Same thing with the house immediately to the east — rippling siding a testament to the intense heat.
Martinson said the cause of the fire is under investigation.
Two doors down, a man and his family surveyed their home. A power line lay on their garage roof. The daughter rushed to move her car from the alley prior to the neighbor’s garage becoming fully engulfed in flames.
The fire drew a crowd of onlookers from all directions.
“I’m late for work, but I’m happy to help somebody,” Welsand said. “I’d rather check it out just to make sure.”
Minnesota Power workers were on the scene quickly, addressing the downed power lines with the expectation that power would be returned within a few hours.