The investigation into the fire that ravaged half a block of Third Street in downtown Winona on Friday, September 13, has been closed. According to Winona Fire Marshal Jim Multhaup, the fire started between the ceiling and the roof of the single story portion of the Islamic center. Agents for Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), state fire marshals and private insurance investigators joined with the Winona fire department to remove debris and bricks by hand. The purpose of removing the rubble was to allow investigators to reconstruct the area to find the starting point of the fire.
Fire investigators peered down at the rubble of the Winona Islamic Center last Wednesday, and tried to reconstruct the events of the early morning hours of September 13. Federal, state, and local investigators determined the fire was accidental.
The cause of the fire is believed to be electrical, but the exact cause cannot be known for certain due to the extensive damage that occurred. Based on police interviews, the discovery of the origin point of the fire, and the fact that the building was secured upon the arrival of the fire department, any rumors of foul play have been dispelled, Maulthaup said.
Fire set in
Unfortunately foul play was involved in a fire in Gilmore Valley on the edge of St. Mary’s University, which occurred on Tuesday, September 24. Each fall, St. Mary’s University cuts down brush and trees, and applies for a controlled burn permit in winter, once the snow has fallen. Tuesday evening, an unknown person lit the pile on fire. Although there was no structural damage, much time and many resources were required to put out the blaze, Maulthaup said. If anyone has any information regarding the start of this fire, please call Crime Stoppers.
Multhaup also wanted to remind Winona area residents that the first week of October is Fire Prevention Week.
“It’s a good opportunity for fire departments to share the importance of fire prevention, and the use of devices like smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors,” Multhaup explained. “I think fire prevention should be every day of the year.”