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Building burns, businesses lost

Firefighters battle a blaze on West Lake Drive last Friday night that claimed the building which housed Center Stage Dance Academy, The Baby Bin, b. Salon and Jay Schurman Photography. (Brian Basham/Tribune)1 / 3
Deputy state fire marshall Kevin Mahle looks over the damage to the building Saturday afternoon.2 / 3
Firefighters from Detroit Lakes, Frazee and Audubon battled the blaze for five hours Friday night. (Brian Basham/Tribune)3 / 3

The cause of a Friday night fire that destroyed a building housing four Detroit Lakes businesses has not yet been determined, though investigators are concentrating on a furnace room that was housed on the second floor.

"The fire started in the area of the furnaces on the second floor, but the exact cause has not been determined," Detroit Lakes Fire Chief Jeff Swanson said Tuesday.

Firefighters were called to the building near the bowling alley on West Lake Drive at around 7:15 p.m. Friday.

"The building was pretty well engulfed (in flames) when we arrived," Swanson said.

Shortly after their arrival, it became apparent from the intensity of the blaze that the flames were being fueled by something, Swanson noted.

"It was a way further involved fire than it should have been for the amount of time it had been burning," Swanson said. "We could tell it was not a natural fire -- it was being fed by something."

The gas meter outside the building also indicated a "high movement" of gas. The fuel line was shut off immediately, but "by then, the fire had a head start," Swanson said.

Fortunately, the firefighters were able to bring the flames under control in about 45 minutes, though it took about five hours to extinguish the blaze completely.

Still, Swanson noted, "We got lucky."

"For a building that size, we could have been there 12 to 24 hours," he added. "We got the call around 7:15 or 7:20, and we cleared the scene at midnight."

The Detroit Lakes Fire Department was assisted at the scene by firefighters from Audubon and Frazee, who provided mutual aid, as well as police, deputies and state troopers.

Though no one was injured in the blaze, the building -- which housed Jay Schurman Photography, The Baby Bin, Center Stage Dance Academy and b. Salon -- was extensively damaged.

Jay Schurman, the owner of the building, said he was not on site when the fire started.

"A friend called to let me know a fire had been reported, and we got there as quick as we could," Schurman said. "I started making phone calls as soon as I heard, but obviously by then, there wasn't much you could do. The road was blocked off, the fire department was there and they were doing their best to get it under control."

Though his business, Schurman Photography, was fully insured, he said that The Baby Bin, a baby boutique opened by his mother and wife Leah about a month ago, was not.

Schurman purchased the building about 3½ years ago; for about six years before that, he operated a studio in Hawley and did some work out of his home in DL.

He's not yet sure what he will do about reopening his business.

"It's too early to tell," Schurman said. "We've got to decide whether we're going rebuild on the same location, or open up shop somewhere else."

He won't know whether anything can be salvaged from the business until the state fire marshal's office allows him to enter the building; so far, it's been closed to everyone but investigators.

"It's a pretty unsafe structure right now," Schurman said. "The fire marshal tried to recover my computer for me, but he said it was frozen solid. We're going to have a tough time finding anything worth saving."

One positive thing Schurman has discovered is the outpouring of support from the community -- even from other photography studios.

"Caulfield Studio and Northwoods Photography were both very nice to call and offer the use of their equipment or any help they could offer," Schurman said.

"I'm not from here, but I think I've lived here long enough to say this is my home, and I'm proud to live in a community where people stand by you and are willing to reach out and lend a hand. It really gives a person hope."

All in all, Schurman added, "We're hanging in there. We've had a tough week, that's for sure ... but we'd like to thank everyone for all their thoughts and prayers."

He's also quick to add that his family is not the only one that has suffered a loss from the fire.

"We weren't the only business in there that's out of work right now," he said. "Think of all those little dancers that don't have a hardwood floor to spin around on -- and Sarah, with her salon. She had everything in there."

Sarah Badurek, owner of b. Salon, had been a tenant in the Schurman building for almost three years.

"I'm going to have to start fresh all over again," she said. "I'm just hoping that maybe I can find a salon that can take me in and I can rent from them so I can get started as soon as possible. I don't want to lose my clients."

Badurek said that because the computer housing all her client records had been destroyed in the fire, she has been unable to contact everyone who had scheduled an appointment.

"I am waiting for people to start calling me when they hear (about the fire)," she said. "I have no way of getting hold of them.

"We're just trying to stay as positive as possible moving forward. I can't sit and dwell on it -- I need to keep my business going," Badurek added.

Ronita Hackel, owner of Center Stage Dance Academy, said that the few classes she had scheduled over the holidays have been cancelled, to give her some time to sort out options.

"We're going to take some time off for Christmas," she said. "I canceled the classes for this week and we're going to see if we can't figure out a temporary spot (to hold classes)."

Hackel added that she hoped to resume classes for her 130 students sometime early in the new year.

"That's what we're hoping," she said.

Hackel, who is the head coach of the Detroit Lakes Lakers dance team, was in the midst of coaching her team through its first home invitational at Detroit Lakes High School Friday night when she heard the news from one of her students.

"I went right over there," she said, noting that the building was in flames when she got there.

"That was pretty tough," Hackel added.

"I know it's supposed to be just stuff, but it (the dance studio and its contents) was a little more sentimental to me than that," she continued. "It's a tough thing ... but I'm thankful that no one was in there (when the fire started)."

Fortunately, Hackel added, the studio was insured, though she hasn't yet had the chance to see the extent of the damage.

"We haven't been cleared to go into the building and see anything yet," she said Monday afternoon, noting that she would be in contact with her dance students' parents as soon as she had more information for them.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454