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Two injured in fire at North Shore motel resort

A fast-moving blaze destroyed a building and injured two people at the Lake Breeze Motel Resort on the North Shore this afternoon. Duluth Assistant Fire Chief Erik Simonson said one of the people transported to a hospital suffered "very minor inj...

Firefighters on the scene
Firefighters battle a fire at Lake Breeze Motel Resort along the North Shore in Duluth on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

A fast-moving blaze destroyed a building and injured two people at the Lake Breeze Motel Resort on the North Shore this afternoon.

Duluth Assistant Fire Chief Erik Simonson said one of the people transported to a hospital suffered "very minor injuries." He didn't know the condition of the second victim other than that she had suffered burns.

Guests said the building destroyed contained the resort's office, gift shop, sauna and two motel units. Several people reported hearing an explosion before the fire.

Andrew Rice of Champlin, Minn., was in a nearby cabin when he "heard a loud explosion and shattering glass."

The 24-year-old ran toward the sound of the explosion and found "some glass, Sheetrock and a window blown out" of the building. He ran into the office, where he found co-owner Paula Hughes, who operates the resort with her husband, and her mother-in-law. Hughes said something had exploded in the laundry room.

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"I told them to get out of here," Rice said. "Paula got out with the dogs, and Paula's mom got out with the other dogs."

According to Rice and other members of his extended family who are staying at the resort at 9000 Congdon Boulevard, also known as Scenic Highway 61, a large amount of fire was visible within five minutes. A dark plume of smoke could be seen for miles at 2 p.m.

Guests gathered on the resort's lawn, watching firefighters battle the blaze from a safe distance.

"I just feel like a part of me is going down. This is their livelihood," said Dan Rice of Champlin, speaking of Paula and Ken Hughes. "The love and care and concern they have for the guests, they personalize it. We just love them. You're family when you're here."

The resort was originally built by Clinton and Margaret Bahn and the family ran it for many years. The Hughes bought the property in 2005. The resort complex sits on 11 acres and has 15 units plus a lounge and the main office. It includes numerous recreation areas and trails and a gift shop.

Duluth property records show that the complex was built in 1981, and that the total estimated value of the buildings and land is $656,800.

Simonson said the front 50 to 60 percent of the office building was fully involved when the first firefighters arrived on the scene, with more flames toward the rear of the building.

"It moved really fast," Simonson said. "Luckily, it was nice and everyone was outside."

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Firefighters were still trying to extinguish the fire at 3 p.m. They were hindered somewhat by the fact that only one water line supplies the area.

While it had good pressure, Simonson said, it can provide only so many gallons of water per minute.

"It slows us down, but this building was probably going to be a total loss anyway. We succeeded in our objective, which was to save this building," he said, referring to a neighboring building with resort units.

A cause has not been determined yet, he said.

News Tribune staff writer Mike Creger contributed to this report.

Fire
A fire burns the office building of Lake Breeze Motel Resort along the North Shore in Duluth on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Related Topics: FIRES
Steve Kuchera is a retired Duluth News Tribune photographer.
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