A shop worker was treated for burns to his hands and residents in two adjacent apartments were displaced as a fire burned down a motorcycle repair shop and disrupted downtown Carlton on Wednesday.
The fire at Arrowhead Cycle & ATV on the 200 block of Chestnut Avenue started at shortly after 10 a.m., said mayor Kitty Bureau.
The Carlton, Esko and Wrenshall volunteer fire departments responded to the blaze, using a backhoe to pull down parts of the building to get at the fire. Firefighters continued to work at the scene into the afternoon.
Bureau joined residents from across the town of 862 people in witnessing what she said was an intense blaze that blew out the back wall of the shop and rapidly overtook the building and its contents.
“The owner and his employee got out,” said Bureau, who added she was in contact with owner Randy Parker late in the morning. “The employee was working on a four-wheeler and it backfired and something caught on fire. It went really, really quick.”
While firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby buildings, the ATV business appeared to be a total loss after the fire was extinguished, as only the front wall was left standing with a large pile of charred rubble behind filling the space.
“The steel roof on the older building also had almost a loft above it that made it a challenge to get to the fire,” Carlton Fire Chief Dane Johnson said. “Our preliminary (theory) is that the fire started in the south end and traveled through the attic space back through the steel roof.”
The Northland chapter of the American Red Cross arrived to help with the displaced residents of the adjacent apartments, which sustained smoke damage and melted vinyl siding.
The fire was also responsible for knocking out telephone and internet service to downtown Carlton, a busy section of town with shops, restaurants and other entities, including the town library. Chestnut Avenue is the stretch of Minnesota Highway 210 that runs east and west through town.
“You can imagine in a small town, everybody was up and around the site to see what was going on,” said Bureau, who shuttled between the fire scene and city hall. “I was just making sure if someone needed something they were getting the help they needed.”
Cloquet Pine Journal reporter Jamie Lund contributed to this story.