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Firefighters battle blaze at Central Hillside store

The business provides oxygen concentrators, among other products.

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Firefighters battle a fire on the 500 block of East Fourth Street in Duluth on Wednesday.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — A fire at Central Hillside medical equipment business sent smoke billowing across the neighborhood late Wednesday afternoon.

The Duluth Fire Department reported to Lake Superior Medical Equipment, 522 E. Fourth St., where a fire engulfed one of the business' vans and a stairway on the back side of the building. Firefighters were on the roof of the building and firefighters on the ground were spraying water on the back of the building as of 6:30 p.m.

In a release from the department late on Wednesday, firefighters reported wind created challenging conditions and led to the use of a Superior Fire Department ladder truck. The 148th Fighter Wing provided an air trailer to help the DFD refill air canisters.

Burning building
Smoke billows from a burning building on East Fourth Street in Duluth on Wednesday.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj said around 6:15 p.m. the department did not know how or where the fire started, but it was likely burning in the medical supply store's lower unit. A civilian helped evacuate the four apartments above the store, he said.

"We haven't done any investigation, of course, yet," Krizaj said. "Right now we're still just trying to control the fire."

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As of 8:35 p.m., fire had not spread to adjacent buildings, which share walls with the burning building.

Gas and electricity were cut off to the block during the firefighting effort.

News Tribune reporters on the scene heard explosions or "pops" and a "loud boom" coming from inside the building.

The business provides oxygen concentrators, among other products.

A rally of approximately 500 striking Essentia nurses and their supporters was gathered in the parking lot behind the business and down the alley — near the Ronald McDonald House — when smoke came over the crowd.

Krizaj said someone at the rally smelled smoke and called 911.

Much of the rally moved to St. Luke's, as scheduled.

This story has been updated several times, most recently at 10:26 p.m. on Sept. 14, to include information from a Duluth Fire Department release. It was originally posted at 6:07 p.m.

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burning building
Crews battle a fire at the rear of a building on the 500 block of East Fourth Street in Duluth on Wednesday.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.
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