Main Street building back in business after October fire

Fire marshal’s office says cause undetermined; possible electrical causes investigated

Photo by Deb Gau Local businesses began moving back into a building at 348 West Main Street in Marshall this spring, after months of cleanup, renovations and a fire investigation. Building owner Dan Vogt said eight tenants returned after October’s fire, including Bursch Travel, the Marshall Birthright office, and the Marshall Academy of Dance.

MARSHALL — It’s been nearly seven months since a fire closed down a Main Street building housing a dozen local businesses. But while some work on the inside of the building is still going on, things are getting back to normal.

Dan Vogt, owner of the building at 348 West Main, said tenants have moved back in this spring.

While the process of fixing up the building was “a long struggle,” Vogt said, the community response to the fire was positive. Marshall city employees and local businesses alike offered to help Vogt and commercial tenants displaced by the fire, he said.

“It was really amazing,” he said. “It shows a little bit about Marshall.”

The Minnesota state fire marshal’s office investigated the fire, which happened Oct. 15. The investigation focused on possible electrical failures from appliances in a room being used for massage therapy. However, investigators were unable to determine the exact cause of the fire.

The fire was reported the afternoon of Oct. 15. Firefighters from Marshall, Ghent and Lynd worked to put out the fire, which caused the most damage to the Perfect Styles salon, on the building’s main floor.

Vogt said the former salon space had to be gutted. The fire damaged the ceiling tiles and grid on the main floor, and the whole main floor had to be rewired. Carpets in the building needed to be torn out and replaced as well, he said.

“That took a lot of time,” Vogt said. However, he said things weren’t as bad as they could have been. “It was just lucky that it didn’t happen on a Sunday or something like that when nobody was there, and it was caught.”

There were no injuries reported in the fire — Perfect Styles wasn’t open for business the day of the fire, and no one was working in the salon area at the time. A concrete floor above Perfect Styles, on the building’s second story, helped keep the fire from spreading, Vogt said. Keeping the fire contained was likely a good thing for neighboring buildings and businesses, he said. The building is next door to Marshall’s city hall, and at the time of the fire, smoke was reported in the garage area of the city building.

The fire did affect the dozen tenants with office and commercial space in the building, however. Some tenants relocated to temporary quarters while the building was cleaned up.

Vogt said the fire marshal’s investigation took longer than he expected. A report from investigator Brian Petersen of the state fire marshal’s office said the case was officially closed in April. Part of the reason the investigation took time was because there were multiple businesses and insurance agencies involved, Vogt said.

According to the investigation report, the fire was found to have started in the southwest corner of a room that was being sublet for massage therapy. Petersen’s report said Marshall Fire Chief Quentin Brunsvold thought the fire may have started with a failure in a towel warmer plugged into a power strip in the room.

The report said a meeting was held in November with representatives from multiple insurance agencies, so they could examine the scene. Destructive testing of the towel warmer and other electrical appliances plugged into the power strip was done in late February. Attendees at the testing agreed the towel cabinet didn’t cause the fire, the report said. A lamp, a CD player, and a Scentsy fragrance warmer also didn’t show electrical activity that could have caused the fire. A fifth item that had been plugged into the power strip only had a power cord remaining. Because the remains of all the appliances plugged into the strip weren’t able to be located for testing, the fire’s cause would be classified as undetermined, the report said.

Tenants began moving back into the building this spring. The building is now open, although Vogt said there’s still some work being done inside. Vogt said eight of the 12 tenants renting building space at the time of the fire have stayed at their locations. Perfect Styles’ owners had an opportunity to move into a new salon location, Vogt said, so they didn’t return.

Vogt said it was good to see tenants decide to stay at the building. Over the years, Vogt said, he has been blessed with great tenants. It’s also good to see businesses stay on Main Street, he said.

“It kind of seems like business is getting back to downtown,” he said, with a move toward more smaller specialty stores. He said it was also exciting to hear that renovation and redevelopment are being planned next door, at the Marshall city building and the vacant hotel property further down the street.