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By Bethany Wesley, Forum Communications, Published November 22 2012

Crews battle blaze in Bemidji; $410,000 in damage estimated

BEMIDJI – A fire Thanksgiving morning caused an estimated $410,000 in damages as crews from around the region spent nearly eight hours battling the blaze at the Birchwood Color Center on the north edge of Bemidji.

The fire, reported at 10:49 a.m. Thursday by numerous passing motorists, was fully involved when crews initially responded to the scene.

Dick Sathers, a Bemidji firefighter and former fire chief, said a backhoe was brought in to tear down the roof.

The fire, by about 1:45 p.m., was reported to be 50 percent contained.

Blackduck and Cass Lake firefighters supplemented the 30 Bemidji firefighters at the scene, Fire Chief David Hoefer said in a release late Thursday.

The Birchwood Color Center complex, located at 3406 Bemidji Ave. N., hosts several businesses, including the Birchwood Color Center, Junction Barber Shop and Ameriprise Financial.

The fire prompted a temporary closure of nearby streets to allow firetrucks and heavy equipment to reach the site of the fire.

“Firefighters encountered extensive fire inside the structure, however they were able to confine the fire to the business of origin,” Hoefer said.

The businesses and apartment were unoccupied at the time of the fire, Hoefer said.

There were no injuries reported.

The fire is under investigation by the Bemidji Fire Department, Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office and Bemidji Police Department.

Earlier in the day, a Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office news release said the fire appeared to have started somewhere in the center of the building.

The fire allowed Beltrami County to utilize its new CodeRed emergency-warning system, which was deployed to notify residents in the immediate vicinity of the fire and the heavy smoke, according to the release.

Bemidji Ambulance, Bemidji police and public works staff, Beltrami Industrial and Sparky’s Construction also provided assistance to firefighters at the scene.


Bethany Wesley writes for the Bemidji Pioneer