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Fire destroys two buildings in Grand Rapids

Lakeview Behavioral Health and VFW Post 1720 in Grand Rapids are a total loss after a fire ripped through both buildings.

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Firefighters battle a blaze in Grand Rapids’ Lakeview Behavioral Health building Saturday night. The fire spread to the adjacent VFW building. (Photo courtesy of Pam Dowell)

Two Grand Rapids buildings are a total loss after a fire broke out Saturday night.

A 911 call was received at 8:57 p.m. reporting smoke in the basement of a business on Northwest Third Street between North Pokegama Avenue and Northwest First Avenue in Grand Rapids.

Crews were on scene within minutes of the call and were still on scene at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. When crews arrived Saturday night, they found smoke coming from the Lakeview Behavioral Health building. The fire quickly spread to adjoining businesses, a news release said.

Lakeview Behavioral Health and VFW Post 1720 buildings are considered a total loss, according to Grand Rapids Fire Chief Travis Cole. A third, Wells Fargo Bank, received smoke and minor water damage, according to Cole.

"This was a difficult fire to fight because of the age of the buildings," Cole said. "We are very grateful that there were no injuries and for the help we received from surrounding fire departments."

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The Grand Rapids Fire Department was assisted by fire departments from Hill City, Cohasset, Aitkin, Trout Lake, Hibbing, Coleraine, Deer River, Greenway and Nashwauk. The Grand Rapids Fire Department and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal' Office are investigating the cause of the fire.

VFW Post 1720 Commander Hugh Quinn told the News Tribune he arrived on scene around 9 p.m. Saturday and was still there Sunday afternoon. Quinn said fire officials told him that the VFW's roof collapsed and the upstairs was burned out completely. As of noon Sunday he was still waiting to get the OK from the fire marshal to go in the building to see what was left.

"It's just a sh---y deal," Quinn said Sunday afternoon as he looked upon the remains of the VFW. "This place is where combat veterans gather and have been doing so since 1929, through the good times and the bad times. It's just really sad."

Quinn said the VFW was open Saturday night but once the smoke was detected the bartender evacuated everyone and called 911.

Quinn told the News Tribune the VFW was fortunate that one of the firefighters on scene is a Gulf War veteran who thought about all the memorabilia in the building.

"So they went in and bagged up as much as they could get," he said. "We had one full wall of glass-encased memorabilia and they went in and got as much as they could."

Quinn said Sunday afternoon that his next stop was the fire hall to see what memorabilia was saved from the fire. He said the VFW had World War II "Eisenhower" jackets on the second floor that had been worn all over the world by veterans, but was unsure as of Sunday afternoon if any of them had been saved from the fire.

Lakeview Behavioral Health posted on Facebook Sunday morning saying, "We would like to thank everyone who has reached out with concerns. A big thanks to the fire department who is still working on putting it out. We are so thankful no one was in the building. We will update later on plans to continue to treat our clients."

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Lakeview Behavioral Health also has a second office location in Grand Rapids about two blocks from the building that was destroyed, as well as an office in Hibbing.

T his story was updated at 1:30 p.m. March 8, 2020 with quotes from VFW Post 1720 Commander Hugh Quinn and from Lakeview Behavioral Health. It was originally posted at 12:22 p.m. March 8, 2020.

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Firefighters battle a blaze in Grand Rapids’ Lakeview Behavioral Health building Saturday night. (Photo courtesy of Pam Dowell)

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Adelle Whitefoot is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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