An early-morning fire on Friday heavily damaged a shop, garage and vehicles owned by Maloney’s Plumbing Inc. in the village of Shoreham.

The structure was apparently fully engaged when the business owner woke up, smelled something burning, saw the fire, and called firefighters about 1:30 a.m., said Detroit Lakes Fire Chief Ryan Swanson. The nearby house, which is a safe distance from the shop, was not damaged.

The roof of the burning shop had already caved in when firefighters arrived at the scene, and the building is considered a total loss. “Obviously, it (the fire) had a really good head start,” Swanson said. A newer-model plumbing van inside the building was destroyed by fire, and an older-model van parked outside was “pretty extensively damaged,” Swanson said.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, and is difficult to pinpoint because of the extensive damage. A fire inspector will try to determine the cause, Swanson said.

The Waubun and Vergas fire departments provided mutual aid, and since there are no fire hydrants in the unincorporated village, water to fight the blaze was drawn from the Pelican River near the Hotel Shoreham, pumped into water tender trucks and hauled a few blocks over to the fire scene. The Pelican River in that area has not frozen over and is normally open year-round, Swanson said.

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Detroit Lakes firefighters were on the scene until about 7:30 a.m. Friday, and as the last truck was leaving the fire department was called to a leaking fuel oil tank in a house near Zion Lutheran Church on Minnesota Avenue.

The Maloney's Plumbing shop and garage was heavily damaged by fire early Friday morning. (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)
The Maloney's Plumbing shop and garage was heavily damaged by fire early Friday morning. (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)

Firefighters help contain leaking fuel oil tank on Minnesota Avenue

The basement tank contained about 130 gallons of heating oil. The tank sat unused for years after the house was converted to a different heating source, and “the tank finally rusted out and started leaking,” Swanson said. Firefighters helped contain the leak, and brought in Daggett Truck Line Inc. to pump the fuel oil out of the damaged tank into portable tanks. “Thank goodness the homeowner caught it and notified us to contain it,” Swanson said. The oil could have leaked into Detroit Lakes' sewer and water infrastructure and caused serious problems.

It’s not unusual for old fuel oil tanks, which generally hold 260 to 300 gallons of heating oil, to be left in basements after an oil furnace is replaced by a natural gas furnace or some other kind of heat. The homeowner may not even be aware there is still fuel oil in those old tanks, Swanson said.

Property owners should make sure any old fuel oil tanks are empty, and then should have them removed, because they pose a hazardous materials risk, Swanson said.

In general, the fire chief urged extra caution during the ongoing cold weather. Make sure furnace intake and exhaust pipes are open and free from frost, and be especially careful with space heaters and electrical overloads, since that combination causes a lot of house fires in very cold weather, he said.