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Howard Lake fire damages historic church and two homes

Garage fire spreads to church, homes in Howard Lake
Garage fire spreads to church, homes in Howard Lake 02:31

HOWARD LAKE, Minn. -- A fire in Howard Lake Sunday damaged two homes and a historic church, the chief of the town's fire department said.

Chief Keith Bobrowske told WCCO News his crew responded to a call in the late afternoon that a detached garage was burning. At least six surrounding departments -- all volunteers -- arrived on scene to battle the flames, which took a few hours. 

It eventually spread to the two homes and the steeple of St. James Lutheran Church, which is more than 100 years old. One home sustained smoke damage but was not burned. 

"We're just happy that all four buildings are still standing, and nobody got hurt," Bobrowske said. "That's the main thing."

Jack Sawyer lives across the street and saw the fire start. He described it as spreading "in a New York minute." In an instant, he said the garage was engulfed in flames.  


"[The firefighters] did a fantastic job," Sawyer said. "It could've been a whole heck of a lot worse. It could've spread through the whole block."

Bobrowske said the fire marshal and investigators would be on the scene in the coming days to determine what caused the Sunday evening blaze. Sawyer said he had seen a bonfire before the fire started. 

This comes as parts of Minnesota are under a red flag warning from the National Weather Service, which means there's a heightened risk of fire danger. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is discouraging campfires on Memorial Day, as people wrap up the long weekend. 

Bobrowske reiterated that people should be careful. 

"Try to use as much common sense as you can. No open flames -- try to keep them down," he said. 

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