IRONTON-Amid descending nightfall and plummeting temperatures, flames engulfed Bud's Small Engine Repair shop late afternoon Friday, Dec. 28, in Ironton.

Thick smoke was visible from the highway, and people surrounded the site at 20233 Hematite Ave. and watched Crosby Fire Department crews work to extinguish the flames. Shortly before 5 p.m., the temperature was 5 degrees at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, with a windchill of 12 below zero.

Owner George "Bud" Hanson's son, Josh, said he and his father were working about 4 to 4:15 p.m. in the shop when his father, in the process of grinding some metal, sent a few sparks flying onto fuel cans, which erupted into flames and quickly got out of control.

"I'm kinda amazed," Josh said, eyeing billowing smoke as it emerged from the burnt-crisp husk of the repair shop as he spoke with the Dispatch. "We've run this shop for 40 years."

After being notified about 4:20 p.m., Crosby Fire Chief Jay DeCent said first responders arrived to find half the repair shop filled with flames, with the fire rapidly gaining size and moving through the structure quickly.

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"It just advanced on us so quickly-with all that welding stuff and gas inside, all that combustion," said DeCent, who noted the conditions-frigidly cold, with stretches of glare ice and little visibility in the darkness-made fighting the flames a more difficult proposition. While they lugged hoses and rigs around, firefighters struggled to get solid footing and some poured road salt in rough, makeshift paths from the fire engines to the edge of the blaze.

Friday's fire comes less than two years after Bud's Small Engine Repair was the center of another incident-namely, a Crosby-Ironton school bus that rammed into the shop and injured Bud Hanson while he was working at his desk March 23, 2017.

According to witnesses on scene at the time, the bus first crashed into a pickup truck in front of the business, pushing it sideways, before crashing into two trailers, pushing one through the side of the building. The pickup truck knocked down a power pole in the process, and live electrical wires were lying in the road for a time. Bud Hanson was pinned against a wall.

With repairs recently finished, the shop and its presiding family had just finished recovering from the bus incident when the fire happened, Josh said-though he took misfortune in stride, with a dose of dry humor.

"We had just got done rebuilding it after the bus rammed into the garage and all that fun stuff," said Josh, who noted the building is insured or "it better be."

"We thought in 2018 we would be OK. We thought 2017 was the bad year, but this is obviously the way to go out with a big bang in 2018, too. Bring in the new year this way."

Emergency agencies assisting on scene included the Deerwood and Ironton fire departments, as well as ambulances from Cuyuna Regional Medical Center.

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