Night blaze guts north side River Falls business
Flames swept through and engulfed the back shop of St. Croix Sport just off Hwy. 35N. in the town of Troy shortly after 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28. The fire caused hundreds of thousands of dollars damage to snowmobiles, snow blowers, ATVs, chain saws, and commercial lawn-care equipment. Some was inventory being repaired for customers. It took 26 River Falls firefighters, with two engines, a water tender and a ladder truck almost an hour to control the fire.
Fire Chief Scott Nelson said his crew remained on the scene for a few more hours to extinguish hard-to-reach hot spots. An excavator was brought in to remove sheet metal siding from the building to allow access for firefighters.
Nelson said a fire crew returned at 7 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, to put out a small fire near the rear of the building.
Hudson firefighters assisted River Falls with the night blaze. Two Ellsworth fire crews provided backup, in case needed, at the River Falls fire station.
St. Croix Sport has been at its 139 Hwy. 35 location since March 1997. The business is locally owned by Chris and Linda Jensen.
Saturday morning Chris Jensen said there was only way to could describe his emotions: "I feel like hell," he said, while surveying the twisted wreckage of much of his shop.
Linda added that they had just spent heavily on remodeling the front building's exterior, including the addition of all new windows and a stone facade, last summer.
The Jensens were waiting for their insurance agent to arrive and look over the damage and discuss claims.
Both said they were determined to reopen but had no idea when that would be.
A fair portion of equipment and machine inventory was salvaged from the front showroom. That part of the building sustained smoke damage but was protected from the intense flames of the back shop by a fire wall.
Chris said his son Garrett and two others were working in the back shop. They spilled old gas on the floor, lit the gas, and that it accidentally sparked, causing flames to spread quickly.
The three used fire extinguishers to try to stop the fire but that proved impossible. They called 911 immediately and were later treated for smoke inhalation.
Chris said if there was anything to be grateful for, it was that no one was hurt by the fire