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Brainerd Fire starts out new year with manufacturing building fire

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Brainerd firefighters were called out in the frigid temperatures early New Year’s Day to a structure fire at Stewart’s Forest Products Inc. in Fort Ripley.

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Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek said upon arrival there was heavy smoke and flames in the southeast side of the building located at 2003 Sleepy Hollow Road in Fort Ripley, south of Brainerd. The fire was contained to a building 75 feet by 150 feet in size. Stunek said it appears that the fire started in an outside wood cutting machine that was located on a deck attached to the building.

Stunek said 23 firefighters responded to the fire that was reported at 7:45 a.m. Seven engines and tankers were used for extinguishing the fire and Nisswa Fire Department was called in for mutual aid.

“This fire had the potential to be huge,” said Stunek based on the size of the building.

According to Stewart’s Forest Products website, the manufacturing building is 85,000 square feet and located on 26 acres. The family-owned business began in 1971 to build wooden ammunition boxes for the U.S. government. In the late 70s, the business focused its efforts on manufacturing commercial wooden packaging along with the government box line. The Fort Ripley facility is where all the processing and assembly is conducted.

No one was working at the facility at the time of the fire and no one was injured.

Stunek said firefighters fought the fire from inside and out. The fire was contained in about an hour and firefighters cleared the scene at 10:20 a.m.

Stunek said the smoke and fire caused about $125,000 in damages to the building.

Stunek said the cause of the fire will be investigated by Brainerd Fire and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s office.

North Ambulance and the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office assisted at the scene.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl.

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