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The building that housed Taco Bell on 19th Avenue North in Fargo is a total loss after Sunday's fire. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

Firefighters battle -30 wind chill while fighting blaze at Fargo Taco Bell

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Firefighters are investigating what caused a Sunday morning fire that destroyed the Taco Bell restaurant on 19th Avenue North in Fargo.

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An employee noticed smoke and flames in the restaurant's mechanical room and called 911 from her cell phone around 8:30 a.m. Sunday, said Fargo Fire Capt. Mike Hendrickson.

No one was hurt, but two firefighters received treatment for minor frostbite on their faces.

Strong winds made the fire spread quickly and the cold weather made fighting the blaze "miserable," Hendrickson said.

The wind chill in Fargo was 30 below zero at that time and wind gusts were as high as 35 mph, said the National Weather Service.

When the first firefighters arrived on scene, smoke was coming from the structure.

Within five minutes, flames were coming from the roof.

"Anytime you get wind pushing flames like that, it pushes the fire and causes it to spread faster," Hendrickson said.

Employees at the neighboring Applebee's opened up the restaurant to give firefighters a place to warm up and the Salvation Army set up inside.

The volunteers gave firefighters warm beverages and used blow dryers to clean out their masks as they rotated shifts.

Extra firefighters from Moorhead were called in to assist so they could rotate shifts while coping with wind chills of 30 below zero, he said.

Owner John Serati said he's grateful no one was hurt in the blaze.

"You can replace a building, but you can't replace a life," he said.

Serati said the top of the water heater was engulfed in flames when the employee noticed the fire.

He plans to rebuild at the same location.

Employees will temporarily work from the other six Taco Bell locations in Fargo-Moorhead that Serati also owns.

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