Dec. 30--The Fergus Falls Fire Department has dealt with plenty of structure fires this year -- 13 of them so far. It's amounted to a total dollar loss around the $2 million range, "which is high," said Fire Chief Mark Hovland. Last year's dollar loss was $1.2 million.
"These 13 have pretty significant dollar loss," he said.
While electrical fires have led the way, there have also been two chimney-related fires, one cigarette fire and three with undetermined causes for structure fires this year. In 2012, the department responded to fires at seven homes and three apartments.
"We've just had more loss of homes this year," Hovland said. "Electrical is kind of our leading cause. Of course, our biggest fire was the downtown fire."
More than 100 firefighters from the area responded to a fire in the 200 block of Lincoln Avenue in July that damaged five businesses and displaced four families. The blaze started at 10 p.m. and burned until the next morning. All the tenants made it out safely, though a firefighter sustained a broken arm after falling down a flight of stairs.
The building was not a total loss, but the combination of the electrical fire, smoke and water caused significant damage to the businesses.
New owners bought the building this fall and are in the process of restoring it with the hopes of making it inhabitable again within a few months.
The only other fire that might rival the downtown fire was when the UBC lumber yard burned down in Fergus Falls in the late 1990s, according to Hovland.
Still, the downtown fire was just one of many that kept the department busy this year.
After a Jan. 25 fire on South Oak Street, firefighters caught a bit of a break through the rest of the winter.
"From middle of May on, we kept fairly busy," Hovland said.
Among them: A clothes dryer fire on Channing Avenue May 18, extensive damage to a residence on Alcott Avenue after a fire June 10 and a minor kitchen fire on Beech Avenue June 30. On Aug. 22 alone the department responded to five fire calls.
A one-level house on West Maple Avenue was a total loss after an electrical fire in July, on a very hot, summer day. Nine people were displaced after an electrical fire broke out at their Vernon Avenue residence in October; no one was home at the time the fire started.
A Hoot Lake home caught fire in early November, and a dog inside perished in the blaze. Earlier this month, fire damaged the roof at a home on Two Rivers Road.
In addition, four Fergus Falls firefighters helped fight the large wildfire in May near Menahga. The fire destroyed more than 50 buildings as it scorched about 7,100 acres.
With all the electrical fires, Hovland encourages residents to not hold off on repairs for electrical problems, and to call a licensed electrician to take a look at things. Residents should also do evaluations of their homes as part of fire prevention and make sure to look for hazards.
There's one other piece of advice, too.
"Smoke detectors, smoke detectors, smoke detectors," Hovland said. "We preach that over and over."
Copyright 2013 - Fergus Falls Daily Journal, Minn.