An 87-year-old building housing a bar and apartments in Little Falls was destroyed by a fire in the early morning hours of Wednesday, June 5.
Fire crews from several area departments battled the blaze at the West Side Bar for nearly eight hours after receiving the call at 1:15 a.m. Wednesday. Little Falls Fire Chief Mike Nieman said flames were visible from an exterior wall and the roof when firefighters arrived on scene at 115 W. Broadway, and residents of the four to five units above the bar were in the process of evacuating.
Nieman said a tenant smelled smoke in his apartment and began notifying other residents of the fire. Whether smoke detectors were working in the building was not yet clear Wednesday morning, according to the fire chief, but everyone safely evacuated from the burning building, including those inside the bar. The number of people who lost their homes in the fire was unknown later Wednesday, but the American Red Cross responded to assist those displaced.
One firefighter from Camp Ripley Fire and Emergency Services suffered a minor injury, Nieman said, but did not require medical treatment. Firefighters from the Pierz, Randall and Brainerd fire departments also assisted at the scene, along with the Minnesota State Patrol, Morrison County Sheriff's Office and Little Falls Police Department.
According to Morrison County Land Services, the building housing the West Side Bar was built in 1932. Nieman said it appeared the fire started in the attic above the apartments, but the cause was not yet determined. Fighting the fire at West Side presented numerous challenges because of the building's age and layout, including two roofs, he said.
"There was an old roof, and a remade roof," Nieman said. "They put one over the top of it (the old roof) to keep it from leaking."
The West Side Cafe and another apartment building to the west of the bar sustained smoke damage, but were otherwise OK, the chief said.
According to Morrison County property records, the bar and adjoining apartments are owned by Lukie's West Side Bar Inc. of Little Falls. The estimated market value for the parcel was $252,400.