MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Authorities said a fire that likely started after a lightning strike at a St. Cloud childhood center Saturday night has left the building a total loss.
Crews were called at about midnight to the Roosevelt Early Childhood Center on the 3000 block of Third St. N. in St. Cloud on a report of a fire. Authorities said the fire appeared to have started in an attic space between the roof and ceiling of the building, made of a dry timber, making it difficult for crews to get to and allowing the fire to spread quickly.
Dozens of firefighters worked throughout the night to contain the blaze, which was still burning early Sunday morning. Crews had to spend much of the night battling the fire from the outside as conditions were too dangerous to enter the building.
“It’s been around a long time and it’s going to be a hard hit for the community,” Dave Miller, from St. Cloud, said.
Authorities said the fire burned through the roof, causing it to collapse. As of about 8 a.m. Sunday, crews were still on the scene battling the fire and knocking down exterior walls to get to the fire better. Fire crews were called from Sartell, Sauk Rapids, Waite Park and Rockville to help battle the fire, a total of about 40 firefighters.
Alicia Jepsen, the early childhood services director at the facility, said it served as the school district’s welcome center for new families and the Early Childhood Education Center. Children from birth to Kindergarten were served at the building.
Denee Noble is wondering what will happen for school in the fall. She has a daughter starting pre-school.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Noble said. “I hope they come up with a solution soon so I can start making arrangements for busing or whatever I have to do with my children.”
The center’s summer program was set to start Monday, serving about 100 children. Jepsen said 100 teachers and staff worked in the building and the center serves several thousand children throughout the year.
“It’s pretty sad to just see it rubble right now,” Jill Pauly, from St. Cloud, said. “It’s a tough thing to see.”
There have been on injuries reported with the fire.