Downtown Winona, Minn. fire burns several buildings - KMSP-TV

Downtown Winona fire: Why? How? Anyone to blame?

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Winona fire under control, but some buildings still burning. Photo by Stephanie Gailhard / FOX 9 News. Winona fire under control, but some buildings still burning. Photo by Stephanie Gailhard / FOX 9 News.
WINONA, Minn. (KMSP) -

A fire that started at the Islamic Center in downtown Winona, Minn. early Friday morning burned three buildings and forced six residents to evacuate the upstairs apartments.

By the time fire crews got the first call around 2 a.m. the Islamic Center of Winona at 118 Center Street was fully engulfed -- the roof collapsed, and fire quickly spreading to two other buildings.

Winona Fire Chief Curt Bittle said three buildings are a total loss, but there are no reports of injuries.

"I really thought we were going to lose the block so to not have anyone injured is the main thing," Bittle said.

The Winona Daily News is calling it "the most significant fire in downtown Winona in modern memory."

Video of the fire:


- Winona Islamic Center
- Blooming Grounds Coffeehouse
- Brosnahan Law Firm
- Integrative Health
- Pretty Things
- Sole Sport

Firefighters were able to contain the fire by 8 a.m. Friday. The Red Cross is helping residents who were evacuated from their apartments.

Luis Efaki, a Sudanese refugee attending Winona State University, was one of the six people evacuated from the upstairs apartments.

"I feel very sad and at the very same time I'm happy that I'm alive," he said.

The curious faces in the crowd all seemed to have the same questions: Why? How? Is anyone to blame?

Because the fire began in an Islamic center, investigators were asked repeatedly about arson. The state fire marshal is on the scene, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to investigate the ignition point and cause of the fire.

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