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Madelia Cleaning Up After Devastating Downtown Fire

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) -- A small community in southwestern Minnesota is still cleaning up after a big fire destroyed several businesses along its main street.

Flames broke out in downtown Madelia around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning followed by an explosion that blew out windows across Main Street.

At least a half dozen businesses burned or were damaged by the fire.

Witnesses think the fire started in a flower shop and then quickly spread to four other connecting businesses.

By daybreak, more than half the block was gone; a painful sight for the business owners and customers.

Jeff Van Hee has lived in Madelia for 20 years. His family owns the local newspaper and he's had a front row seat to good and bad times in the town. He's hoping the impact is temporary.

"It's so far reaching, you don't realize it until something like this happens, how deep it goes," Van Hee said. "You think of all the people that are – temporarily hopefully – out of work."

A disaster relief fund has been set up to help the town and businesses recover. AgStar Financial Services in Mankato got it started with a $15,000 donation.

The State Fire Marshal's Office arrived to the area on Thursday to investigate the cause of the fire. The state's Office of Pipeline Safety is on the scene, as are private investigators who represent several agencies and businesses. The investigation is in its early stages and could take months to complete.

Officials say a furniture store, a dentist's office, a restaurant, an insurance agency and hair salon are among the businesses lost in the fire.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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