WINONA, Minn. (AP) — Firefighters got the upper hand Friday morning on a large blaze that burned several buildings in downtown Winona.
The fire broke out about 2 a.m. and may have started in the Winona Islamic Center, though the ignition point and source have yet to be determined, Fire Chief Curt Bittle said. The state fire marshal was scheduled to arrive in Winona later in the morning to begin investigating, the Winona Daily News reported.
There were no reports of injuries.
Ahmed El-Afandi, who began the Islamic Center and is a retired political science professor at Winona State University, said the building is "pretty much gone." He said fire officials didn't immediately know whether the fire was accidental or arson.
"Nobody (in the community) has given us any trouble," he told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.
Residents of apartments on the upper floors of the affected buildings were safely evacuated, police said. The Red Cross was assisting them.
Buildings that house the Brosnahan Law Firm, Sole Sport, Blooming Grounds and Integrative Health also were among those heavily damaged by the fire.
Brosnahan said his building was a total loss, "but fortunately, our business records are all backed up electronically off-site."
The fire "got into an attic, and it was jumping from building to building," he said, relaying information he received from fire officials. "I had an apartment with three young (Winona State University) sophomores. Fortunately, all three young girls are safe."
Jake Lindberg, who also lived above the law office, said all of his belongings were inside.
"I like some of the things I have," he said, as he stopped to stare at a rushing river of sooty water pouring from the building's front entrance. "But I like life more."
Winona is a city of about 28,000 people about 110 miles southeast of Minneapolis.
Information from: Winona Daily News, http://www.winonadailynews.com