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Fire causes estimated $135,000 in damage to two Duluth buildings

A fire that started in a vacant duplex and spread to an occupied building next door Wednesday night in Duluth's Central Hillside neighborhood caused an estimated $135,000 in damage, authorities said.

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Flames erupt from the roof of the home at 123 East Fourth Street in Duluth Wednesday evening. The fire spread to the home from the vacant house next door that was burning at the same time. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
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A fire that started in a vacant duplex and spread to an occupied building next door Wednesday night in Duluth's Central Hillside neighborhood caused an estimated $135,000 in damage, authorities said.

The fire was reported at about 7:45 p.m., the Duluth Fire Department reported. A firefighter was transported to a local hospital with an elevated heart rate but later released; there were no other reports of injuries and no immediate word on the cause of the fire.

"Upon arrival, heavy fire was seen coming from (a) corner of a two-story side-by-side vacant duplex," the department reported in a news release. "The fire was extending to a second, two-story duplex."

Firefighters simultaneously worked to extinguish flames in the two buildings at 119-21 E. Fourth St. and 123 E. Fourth St., which are just a few feet apart.

The large amount of smoke billowing from the buildings caused a haze to hang in the air, was visible from a long distance away and attracted dozens of onlookers who stood along Fourth Street on the warm, clear spring night. Neighbors said they saw flames on both the back and the side of the vacant duplex when the fire started. A group of men sitting on the steps of an apartment building across the street said they saw someone at the front of the vacant building around the time the fire started. 

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Boards covered the first-floor windows at 121 E. Fourth St., and neighbors said the building - which county records list as having been built in 1906 - has long been vacant. According to city records, an order of condemnation had been placed on the building in January 2015 because there was no utility service to the duplex.

As crews worked on the back of the duplex, flames began to grow on the roof at 123 E. Fourth St., constructed in 1896 according to county records. While firefighters came out of the vacant building, other firefighters went into the house next door; several others stopped to switch out their oxygen tanks. Firefighters on a ladder truck broke upstairs windows and cut holes in the roof for ventilation while others in the backyard attempted to extinguish the flames on the roof.

The crowd dispersed as smoke and water began to flow down Fourth Street, the sound of firefighters working with chainsaws coming through the haze. Crews remained on the scene for more than three hours; a total of 43 firefighters responded to the call. Portions of East Fourth Street and First Avenue East were closed to traffic as crews worked Wednesday night.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Duluth Fire Marshal's Office. The occupants of the second building were not able to return home, the fire department reported, but were allowed to gather some essential items before leaving.

Related Topics: FIRES
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