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Lake County fire originated with plow truck

Firefighters battled more than flames at the Lake County Highway Department shop on Wednesday night, with subzero temperatures and stiff winds presenting additional challenges.

Crews battle a fire at the Lake County Highway Department shop Wednesday night. (Adelle Whitefoot / Lake County News Chronicle)

Firefighters battled more than flames at the Lake County Highway Department shop on Wednesday night, with subzero temperatures and stiff winds presenting additional challenges.

“It was rough - cold and windy,” said Two Harbors Fire Chief Mark Schlangen. “But everybody was safe and there were no injuries, only material losses.”

After extinguishing the flames in the snow plow truck in which the fire originated, Schlangen said, county workers removed the remaining trucks from the facility as firefighters battled hot spots in the shop roof for several hours. Crews arrived on scene shortly after the alarm at 5:40 p.m. Wednesday and stayed until 1 a.m. Thursday.

Schlangen credited Lake County Search and Rescue with keeping the firefighters as comfortable as possible by using rehab services.

“They have a rehabilitation station where we can get medically evaluated and it gives us a warm place to thaw out a bit,” he said.


The shop is a large building along Lake County Highway 2 in Two Harbors, and not all parts of the structure were affected by the fire. Still, it was not being used as of Thursday morning. The plow truck was a loss and the shop and its contents were being assessed by county officials. Schlangen said an office and other bays remained relatively untouched save for parts being “stained by smoke.”

While Schlangen was confident of the origin of the fire, the cause of the fire remained under investigation Thursday. The plow truck had been in the shop for repairs, the fire chief said, but there was no one in the shop when the fire started.

The shop originally had a flat tar roof, Schlangen said, before a steel roof was later added. The fire left the truck and continued in the void between the two roofs, he explained, forcing firefighters to open up the steel roof to access the fire below.    

A damage estimate was not yet available, Schlangen said.

The county was scrambling to find space to store the remaining plow trucks and to prepare for coming weather events. There’s snow in the forecast for today in the Northland.

“Lake County is working with local partners and neighboring agencies to provide uninterrupted highway services across the county, and to prepare for Friday’s expected weather,” said Matt Huddleston, Lake County administrator, in a news release. “... Although our resources will be stretched, our efforts will be focused on minimizing any disruption in services, and we thank the community for their support and understanding.”

In addition to the Two Harbors Fire Department, the Clifton and Silver Bay fire departments responded to the scene. Lake County Ambulance also was on standby during the night.

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