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Fire destroys vacant downtown Duluth building

The fire started around 2:05 a.m. Friday.

Building at 126 E. First St., Duluth, damaged by fire
A three-story building at 126 E. First St. in downtown Duluth was damaged in a fire Friday morning.
Abigael Keely Smith / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — A vacant downtown building at 126 E. First St. was destroyed in a fire Friday morning.

According to a news release, fire crews were pulled from the building within a half-hour to fight the fire defensively. Water from fire hoses pooled down E. Superior St., covering two cars in ice. The fire was reported at 2:05 a.m.

Firefighters took turns warming up as they fought the fire in subzero conditions. Fire Chief Deputy John Otis said fires in similar vacant buildings introduce other dangers.

"My greater concern than the weather is operating in unknown conditions," Otis said.

According to a tweet from the fire department, the fire was out at 8:20 a.m. The structure was deemed a total loss.

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Otis said the fire department does not believe there was anyone in the building at the time of the fire.

Fire 126 E. First St. Duluth_2
The three-story building at 126 E. First St., Duluth, left, was damaged in a fire early Friday morning. The two-story building at 118 E. First St., right, was destroyed in a fire two years ago.
Abigael Keely Smith / Duluth News Tribune

The three-story building, most recently home to Pawn Duluth, is located next to the HART parking entrance and across East First Street from the former Paul Robeson Ballroom and Kozy Bar. According to property records, the building is owned by Adam Bohlman.

City spokesperson Kate Van Daele said the building has been delinquent on taxes since 2017. In November 2021, it was condemned for habitation due to lack of utilities. It has since been added to the vacant building list.

"Construction services condemned the building for demolition this morning, and that starts a timeline where they'll reach out and notify the owner to take responsibility of the building," Otis said.

The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, at the corner of East First Street and Second Avenue, sustained no observable damage, but the back side of the memorial wall was covered in ice, Van Daele said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Crews are still on-scene monitoring potential hot spots.

Traffic was shut down along 100 E. First St.; on Michigan Street between Second and First avenues west; and on Second Avenue East between Second and Superior streets.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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