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Fire damages Thielen Meats smokehouse and part of building

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Brainerd Dispatch
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Fire damages Thielen Meats smokehouse and part of building
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

Those who purchase their Easter hams at Thielen Meats of Pierz will have to go somewhere else this holiday season.

A fire damaged two of the three smokehouses and part of the building and roof at Thielen’s — known for its generations-old bacon-making formula and quality meats — during the early morning hours Friday.

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Matt Thielen, who owns the meat market with his brothers, Andy and Joe, and their father Keith, worked Monday on cleaning up the mess from the fire.

“Two of the smokehouses were mildly damaged, but our main issue is our building,” said Thielen. “We need a new roof. Most of the damage is on the north side of the building. We’re starting to clean up everything. It all has to go, the insulation, the duct work and all of our $250,000 worth of inventory (meat) has to be thrown away.

“We will take five weeks to two months before we can think about reopening.”

Thielen said around 8 p.m. Thursday ice/snow came off the roof and hit a gas line valve that appeared to cause a gas leak near the smokehouse. Thielen said his brothers were able to extinguish the fire.

“It was like a 20-foot blow torch going into the wall of the smokehouse,” said Thielen. “It heated up the wall so bad that it turned purple from being so hot.”

Thielen said it took the gas company four hours to arrive on scene to shut the gas off. The Pierz Fire Department was paged.

“They had to evacuate a few blocks,” Thielen said of the department’s precautions.

Thielen said the gas leak was fixed and everyone cleared the scene.

Pierz Fire Chief Brian Boser said firefighters were called back around 4:30 a.m. Friday for a structure fire at Thielen’s.

“It was engulfed in flames when we arrived,” said Boser. It was on the back side of the building. The fire department made entry into the business to make the initial attack. We fought the fire inside and out. It was contained within an hour.”

Boser said the smokehouse structure is intact, but the roof and the area on the north side of the building will need to be rebuilt. He said the main structure of the store was not effected by the fire.

“The cause of the fire is still under investigation,” said Boser. “Right now we have some ideas. ... It was not foul play.”

About 18 firefighters responded to the scene.

Thielen said the family is “pretty resilient” and two days after the fire they had everything lined up to rebuild.

“We are good at working, that is when we shine,” said Thielen. “It’s just a matter of putting it back together.”

Thielen said the community has been great in helping out after the fire.

“It feels good,” Thielen said of the people’s generosity. “Makes it (the fire and damages) not quite as miserable.”

Thielen’s Meat was started in 1922 by the late Phil Thielen. Today it is owned and operated by Phil’s three great-grandsons Matt, Andy and Joe Thielen. Thielen’s was first located in back of a furniture store in downtown Pierz. Phil’s son, Lerald or Junior, worked for his father and eventually took over with his wife, Dorothy. They built the present building in 1961 on North Main Street. Lerald died in 1977.

The secret to their famous bacon is their smokehouse, which was designed by Phil Thielen, and is still used today.

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

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Jennifer Stockinger
(218) 855-5851
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