Brainerd City Hall fire delays reopening of city facilities

City council members approved up to $12,000 for additional roofing work to be done.

A fire on the roof of Brainerd City Hall May 18 caused minor damage to roofing, as well as interior water and smoke damage. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Brainerd City Hall will not reopen to the public as soon as anticipated following a roof fire May 18, during the building’s remodeling project.

The fire, which was extinguished about 10 minutes after firefighters arrived, caused minor water damage on the second and third floors and light smoke damage throughout the building, Fire Chief Tim Holmes reported. Floor and ceiling tiles on the second and third floors will need to be replaced, but no electrical equipment was damaged.

City Engineer Paul Sandy told city council members during their meeting Monday, June 1, damage to the roof included three trusses that needed to be either repaired or replaced. The city’s League of Minnesota Cities insurance adjusters agreed to reimburse the city for the fire’s damages.

As part of the post-fire investigation, staff hired a testing agency to test the remaining roof for the presence of asbestos to see if there were any asbestos-laced materials firefighters might have been exposed to, Sandy said. They found no asbestos in the vermiculite insulation between the wooden roof deck and the concrete roof deck but did, however, find asbestos in the wood decking.

The League of Minnesota Cities recommended the city hire an abatement company to remove, at a minimum, the damaged roof decking materials and all the vermiculite insulation. Even though the insulation does not contain asbestos, Sandy said because it got wet it needs to be removed so the drying process can take place, both from the third floor and from above on the concrete roof deck. The concrete soaked up so much water, he said, that it’s having issues drying from just the bottom side.


The city received a quote from Asbestos Control & Consulting Team to remove the insulation for $13,800. The city’s insurance will fully cover that cost, along with the estimated $2,780.77 to remove the damaged roof decking. Sandy said city staffers feel this is an opportune time to replace all the asbestos-laden roof decking — not just that damaged in the fire — so it does not cause any issues in the future. That additional cost not covered by insurance is estimated at $11,679.23.

The council unanimously approved up to $12,000 for the project, with the money to come from the city hall remodel contingency fund.

Cause of the fire

Council member Kelly Bevans asked Monday if the cause of the fire had been determined yet. Sandy said the original thought was there was evidence of smoking happening on the roof and added crews from Thelen Heating and Roofing were the last on the roof before leaving for lunch. The fire occurred during the lunch hour. However, Sandy said the state fire marshal has not concluded its investigation and final report. Holmes affirmed Sandy’s statements during the meeting, but afterward, he further clarified the assessment is purely preliminary, and the fire marshal has not yet reported its official findings.

Reopening city hall

Due to the drying out that still needs to happen on the second and third floors, along with the lingering smoke smell and numerous fans running, City Administrator Jennifer Bergman said staff proposes to continue on with its work from home plan until necessary repairs and cleanup are finished.

Bergman said she expects to bring a reopening plan before the council at its next meeting June 15. When asked about returning to city council chambers, Sandy said the June 15 meeting is possible, but it is more likely the council will not be back in its normal chambers until the first meeting in July.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .


Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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