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'No question about it:' Founder of Maplelag Resort says he will rebuild again

Jim Richards rebuilt the main lodge after a fire destroyed it back in 1999.

Maplelag resort fire
Maplelag Resort outside of Detroit Lakes was destroyed by fire Monday, Oct. 10.
Michael Achterling
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CALLAWAY, Minn. — Despite all of the destruction at the Maplelag Resort , there is some optimism that the tower at the main lodge can be saved.

Instead of prepping for a knitting retreat scheduled for this weekend at the resort, founder Jim Richards sat in a lawn chair as firefighters from nearly a dozen departments worked to put out the massive blaze.

"I just can't believe it, you know. I'm still in shock," he said.

He was in the office Monday morning, Oct. 10, catching up on emails and reservations for the upcoming ski season when a loud sound caught his ear.

"I heard a pop and didn't think much of it, I thought the ladies had stumbled," he said.

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While the official cause of the fire has not been determined, Richards thinks it may have started in the laundry room.

Within minutes, flames were shooting from every possible direction out of the lodge, even rising above the treeline from across the lake.

Lost in the fire were hundreds of handmade skis, 250 stained glass windows and the world's largest collection of depot signs, according to Richards.

IMG_2543 (2).JPG
Onlookers watch firefighters from 10 different municipalities battle a large fire at the main building at Maplelag Resort in Callaway, Minnesota on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"I've lost so much. Unique things, and (a) life's work in smoke right now," he said.

Including 22 years of rebuilding.

The main lodge burned down back in 1999 when the boiler caught fire. He said the rebuild included more modern fire safety features.

"It's hard to fathom, it's just kind of unbelievable it happened," Richards said.

He founded the resort with his wife 49 years ago, and has turned it into a recreation destination known across the country for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and bike trails.

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"We are very unique. People come here from all over the country. Skiers know about us from Chicago, New York, Sacramento, L.A., where someone five miles away doesn't realize what we are," Richards said.

More from WDAY's Matt Henson

While his son and daughter-in-law run most of the resort today, Richards says he still works seven days a week, 12 to 15 hours a day, due to staffing shortages. That work will now be focused on canceling the upcoming ski season.

Many Twin Cities area schools used the resort for training camp.

"We had almost a full house for the winter, ski teams coming, Moorhead high comes up here, 60 kids," he said.

Richards wants the firefighters to know how much his family appreciates their efforts, saying "it is what it is," that there wasn't much they could do.

When asked if he will rebuild?

"Oh yeah, no question," Richards said.

Related Topics: FIRESDETROIT LAKESMINNESOTA
Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at mhenson@wday.com and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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