Fire destroys Zumbrota businesses

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A fire began in a workshop on the morning of May 24 and spread to other buildings, gutting the locations of the Agri-Tech Industrial, ATI Service, and General Rental Center businesses at 580 West First Street along with several vehicles.

By Marilyn Anderson

ZUMBROTA – A fire that began during the early morning hours of Saturday, May 24, gutted several structures and left owner Steve Groth with little left other than the desire to rebuild. The fire began in a workshop and spread to other buildings, affecting the businesses of Agri-Tech Industrial, ATI Service, and General Rental Center, located at 580 West First Street.  

A heat sensor detected the fire which set off the alert system, contacting Goodhue County Dispatch Center. The Zumbrota Fire Department was paged to respond.  

As the fire insurance represen-tatives assessed the loss on May 27, Groth was still shaking his head as he looked out from the doorway of the one building that wasn’t destroyed. He said the loss was “tremendous, staggering  – all of my inventory, the tools, the buildings. I’ve been in business 32 years. I don’t know where we go from here.” 

Additional structures attached to the workshop were also destroyed. Later, the General Rental Center also suffered damage. Contents of the buildings were lost, including welding equipment, lifts, diagnostic equipment, specialized tools, diesel truck parts, and gear boxes. Also lost were four trucks belonging to customers, as well as a pick-up and car belonging to Groth.  

Noting that things will be tied up for some time due to insurance processing and such, Groth said, “If I can rebuild it, I will.” He spoke of plans to rebuild an improved office and shop.

In addition to Groth, there are three full-time employees. Agri-Tech Industrial opened in 1982 and has focused on mechanical work repairing, building, and modifying trucks, silo unloaders, and other ag-related equipment. ATI Services specializes in diesel engine mechanical work. General Rental Services opened in 1993. Rentals included concrete and lawn equipment, electric generators, and canopy tents. Groth does not anticipate replacing the rental business.

Groth summarized the loss by stating, “It is over now. We have to put it behind us and move forward.”

Three fire departments respond

After the Zumbrota Fire Department (ZFD) responded to the fire, the Goodhue and Wanamingo Fire Departments were immediately called to assist. Groth was appreciative of all their efforts, saying, “Everyone worked to get this under control. They were really fantastic.”

ZFD Chief Darrel Leonard said 22 Zumbrota firefighters responded with six trucks. The Goodhue and Wanamingo Fire Departments each responded with a pumper truck and tanker truck and firefighters. 

Challenges of the fire included how other buildings were linked to the rear of the workshop with additional buildings on either side close by. Other businesses are also located nearby. Because of the type of work done, items such as propane, waste oil, and torches were in the buildings in addition to vehicles. 

All three departments were on the scene until 10 a.m. Saturday morning, May 24. Leonard expressed appreciation for everyone’s quick response and assistance, and noted the need for a great amount of water for the fire.

Besides the contents of the building posing dangers and also keeping the fire going, Leonard said the buildings themselves posed a challenge. The type of insulation and the roof make-up added to the difficulty in eliminating the fire. He said, “We would think we had it and then it would rekindle.” As a result, members of the ZFD returned to the scene additional times.  The last time was at 4:30 a.m. Sunday to extinguish the General Rental Center building, which was not attached to the other buildings. It had become so hot in the rafters, that it was smoking and the trusses had to be soaked.

The state fire marshal is doing an investigation as to the cause of the fire. Leonard said the fire marshal is routinely called upon whenever the origin of a fire is not clear and/or the amount of dollars lost is substantial. They are the experts in these situations, Leonard said.



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