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Fire destroys Toad Lake Taxidermy

An early morning fire destroyed Toad Lake Taxidermy last week. Submitted photo1 / 3
A bird's-eye view of Toad Lake Taxidermy before the fire. Submitted photo2 / 3
Before the fire: A lifetime of trophies at Toad Lake Taxidermy was wiped out in the blaze. Submitted photo3 / 3

A lifetime of hunting and fishing trophies went up in smoke with a devastating fire at Toad Lake Taxidermy last week.

Owner Mark Arnold said he is beating himself up over the loss to his customers, but there doesn't seem to be anything he could have done to prevent the early morning fire: The fire is believed to have started in a freezer in the taxidermy shop when he was away on a fishing trip. His wife, Heidi, saw flames coming out of the back of the shop at about 4:30 a.m. as she was getting ready for work. The fire gutted the shop, located about 18 miles east of Detroit Lakes off Highway 34 at Toad Lake.

The Wolf Lake Fire Department was dispatched to the shop fire at 4:40 a.m. on Jan. 24, said fire chief Brock Anderson. "Upon arrival, (firefighters) found two separate buildings fully involved," he said. "Wolf Lake made an initial attack and in about an hour had the fire under control."

Firefighters used approximately 15,000 gallons of water and no animals or people were hurt in the blaze, he said. Overhaul operations took place over the course of the next 3.5 hours, he added.

Wolf Lake Fire was assisted at the scene by Frazee Fire, Carsonville Fire, Detroit Lakes Fire, Wolf Lake Rescue and North Memorial EMS. No firefighters were hurt in the fire, which is under investigation by the State Fire Marshal's Office.

"Probably 30 years I've been in business there," Arnold said. "I grew up around the Toad Lake area, I've been in this house over 40 years."

As a taxidermist, he works on deer, fish, birds and just about everything else, he said. "The sad thing is, I lost my whole hunting career of shooting stuff, from Montana to Alaska, and fishing Lake of the Woods," he said.

"It's a tough deal," he added. "I lost all my paperwork. I'm pretty much relying on people to get hold of me. That's the good thing about Facebook—they can see what a disaster it was and get hold of me."

Arnold said he wasn't exactly over-insured. "I didn't have business insurance, they wouldn't even give it to me. I would say I have insurance, to an extent."

A GO Fund Me account started by Brady Anderson has raised over $1,000 so far. Here's the link:

"Mark and his wife went through a tragic loss," Anderson said. "He is very well known in the area for his amazing work when it comes to taxidermy ... Mark and his skills are spectacular, so many, many people in the community and out of the community love his work. He does such an amazing job when it comes to taxidermy. I  had a fish done by him a few years back and I was skeptical about it, because I was unsure of his work and what it would turn out like. But as soon as I walked into his office and sat down with him, I knew right away it would turn out great. He adds so much detail to all his work. Once I found out that his shop had burnt down, it hurt me a little, to know that such a wonderful guy with such a great passion had just lost everything, and I knew there had to be a way that I could help. So right there and then I asked a few friends what they think we should do, and we all agreed on a Go Fund Me for him. And we also contacted Mark, letting him know that if he needs any help at all with the clean up or the building of a new shop that we will be there in a heart beat."

Arnold isn't sure what the future holds for his taxidermy shop. He is nearing retirement age, but loves what he does and misses going to work in the shop every morning. "I enjoyed it, but now I feel kind of lost. I look at my shop and there's nothing I can do ... You never think it's going to happen to you."

He lost his taxidermy tools, his personal stuff, "I lost everything," he said. "But we've gotten a lot of prayer going through this situation—people have been really supportive."