3 buildings destroyed in Winona fire; more than 20 people displaced

2nd, 3rd, 4th Streets closed between Center and Lafayette Streets

More than 20 people, including several Winona State University students have been displaced after a large fire destroys three buildings and damages others.

The call came in at about 2 a.m. about a fire on the 100 block of Center Street. The Winona Fire Department says the fire quickly spread from roof-to-roof. Many of the buildings on that street have connecting walls, which helped the fire spread.

No one has been injured. Winona Fire Chief Curt Bittle says they’re not sure where the fire started, but the Islamic Center appears to have been burning the longest. The cause of the fire is not known at this time. That building has been torn down so crews can knock down the fire.

The buildings that house Brosnahan Law Firm, Blooming Grounds Coffeehouse and Sole Sports are among the buildings that are damaged from the fire.

Crews were battling the fire from the ground and two ladder trucks.

Winona’s fire chief was concerned the fire would be much more destructive than it already was. “Our major concern was losing the block, the fire was spreading and jumping from loft to loft, the 122 building we made our stand, opened up walls, and stopped the fire spreading east,” said Chief Kurt Bittle.

The Red Cross was on scene to help firefighters and those who were forced to evacuate. More than 20 people had to find emergency shelter. Some were relocated to Winona State University; others to area hotels; and some evacuees are with family and friends.

A Winona State University student who lived in one of the buildings told News 8 when he realized there was a fire spreading, he went door-to-door to help alert and evacuate students.

Winona’s mayor tells News 8 this is the worst fire he’s seen, but the community pulling together is inspiring.

The Winona Fire Department was assisted by Winona police, as well as the Goodview, Wilson and Pickwick Fire Departments.

The State Fire Marshal’s office as well as the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigation into the cause of the fire.

Officials say foul play is not suspected and they believe the fire started in the Islamic Center where it had been burning the longest.