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He Built His Business Over 20 Years, Then Fire Destroyed It In Minutes

STANCHFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) - It's a painful sight, watching Randy Sutherland survey the business that took years to create, but only seconds to destroy.

"We had a nice shop," he said as he looked at the charred remains of Randy's Toy Repair, a motorcycle and utility vehicle repair shop he started on the back of his family's farming property about 20 years ago.

The loss has brought with it a myriad of emotions.

"Everything from guilt, shame, fear," Sutherland said. "It's everything combined in one, and I guess that's what they call a tragedy."

Two days earlier, he said he and his cousin left the shop to run a quick errand.

"We were gone maybe 40 minutes, and we came back to a blaze," he said.

Gas cans and oil barrels inside only intensified the fire, destroying motorcycles, ATVs, and his life's work.

Sutherland said he tried hoping on the forklift right outside the shop to start moving vehicles, but it was too hot to touch.

The heat from the blaze made the motorcycles directly outside the building burn his hands as he attempted to move them, forcing him to watch them burn.

The shop was a total loss despite firefighters' efforts.

"They did a great job, they did everything they could," Sutherland said.

The fire was so strong it melted engines. But within the rubble, Sutherland found a piece a paper that survived.

"A military paper with one guy's face on it that said 'Be tough,'" he said.

And that's what he's trying to do.

Support from family, friends and customers is helping. His adult children set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations to cover his losses.

"I am blessed, that's all there is to it," he said.

The costs will be great, especially since Sutherland said he didn't have the building insured.

Any money raised will first go towards paying off the loan on the shop, then making sure his customers who have damaged or destroyed property are compensated.

That aspect has its own complications, since all of his customer's records and contact information was lost in the fire.

"Thank you for letting me work on your stuff and I'll do what I can to make this right," he said to his customers, adding that he hopes they learn of what happened to the shop so they can call him.

Despite losing his business, Sutherland said he feels humbled and grateful for everyone who has visited him, called him, or offered words of encouragement, especially his church family.

"They don't really know how unbelievably overwhelmed I am from the help I'm receiving here," he said.

Sutherland believes the fire started in an area where he stored combustibles, not far from the battery charging station for his tools. He said investigators told him the fire burned so hot it might be impossible to determine exactly how the fire started.

Customers who need to call Sutherland can reach him at 763-221-7067 or 763-689-2048.

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