Progress made in repairs to North Shore resorts after fires, floodBluefin Bay is one of three North Shore resorts recovering from calamities this summer. The Lake Breeze Motel Resort in Duluth was damaged by fire on July 3, and Cascade Lodge near Grand Marais experienced a flash flood on July 19.
By: Andrew Krueger , Duluth News Tribune
This summer’s cool weather hasn’t been the greatest for resorts along Minnesota’s North Shore.
But Dennis Rysdahl, owner and general manager of Bluefin Bay resort in Tofte, said there’s a bit of a silver lining: With guests keeping windows closed and spending less time on their decks, they’re not noticing the construction noise as much as crews rebuild a half-dozen units damaged by a fire in June.
“We’re half a day away from having all outside work done,” Rysdahl said on Friday afternoon. “Inside we’ve got all the mechanical work done. … We’re ready to start moving into the finish work inside.”
Bluefin Bay is one of three North Shore resorts recovering from calamities this summer. The Lake Breeze Motel Resort in Duluth was damaged by fire on July 3, and Cascade Lodge near Grand Marais experienced a flash flood on July 19.
The goal at Bluefin Bay is to have the first of the fire-damaged units reopened by Labor Day, with the rest to follow within a few weeks.
A fire at the well-known resort about 80 miles northeast of Duluth damaged six of its 70 vacation rental units; no one was injured. Five of the six units needed to be completely rebuilt.
The fire restoration work was completed by Loyear Restoration Services, which has an office in Duluth. The contractor for rebuilding is MAX Construction of Grand Marais.
Rysdahl said the state fire marshal’s office has helped keep the rebuilding process on track, providing quick answers — even on nights and weekends — to questions about fire codes as new work was integrated into the original, 1987-built structure.
The newly rebuilt units will “go way beyond code,” Rysdahl said, with upgraded fire protection and soundproofing.
There still has been no final word from the state fire marshal or insurance investigators on the cause of the fire, Rysdahl said. The initial investigation had focused on a wood-burning fireplace and chimney.
In the meantime, the resort has been able to successfully accommodate guests who had reservations for the fire-damaged units.
“We’re lucky that we were well-insured, that our people reacted really well and that our guests have been understanding,” he said.
Lake Breeze Motel Resort
The Lake Breeze Motel Resort on Scenic Highway 61 in Duluth is a month away from being able to reopen, said Ken Hughes, who owns and operates the motel with his wife, Paula.
“We’re hoping for September 1,” Hughes said on Saturday.
Four motel units and the Hughes’ living quarters were destroyed in a July 3 explosion and fire. Paula Hughes sustained second-degree burns and a few small third-degree burns in the fire. She is being treated in the Burn Center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul but was home this weekend for a visit, Ken Hughes said.
In addition to replaceable possessions, the Hughes family lost wedding albums and other photographs in the fire, along with Paula Hughes’ wedding ring. Despite extensive searching, the ring still hasn’t been found, Ken Hughes said.
A fundraiser for the family on July 13 at nearby Clearwater Grille brought in about $2,000, Ken Hughes said. They’ve received additional donations since then, but those haven’t been tallied.
Fire inspectors released the damaged building just last week, he said. That allows the motel resort to begin cleanup and removal this week in preparation for reopening the 13 undamaged units.
Within a day after the flash flood, thanks to some hard work, it was difficult for passersby to know anything was amiss at Cascade Lodge, owner Michael O’Phelan said Saturday.
A stream that runs through the grounds of the landmark resort west of Grand Marais spilled out of its banks and caused significant erosion early July 19 after several rounds of storms dropped a half-foot of rain on the area.
No one was injured, and the resort’s many buildings survived, though one creekside cabin will need some foundation repairs. O’Phelan said the lodge staff and a crew from Edwin E. Thoreson Inc. of Grand Marais got the washed-out driveways repaired and debris removed that same day.
“They did a month’s worth of work in a day,” he said.
The lodge never closed, and now the focus is on longer-term projects such as repairing or rerouting trails eroded by the creek and stabilizing its banks.
Some bad news is that the flood damage won’t be covered by insurance. But “we’re really having our best summer ever,” said O’Phelan, in his 10th summer at Cascade Lodge. “Business is very strong. We’re going to be fine.”
News Tribune reporter John Lundy contributed to this report.