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Fire at auto repair shop causes more than $700,000 in damage

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Firefighters set up perimeter tape around Werkstatt European Auto Service, 533 6th Ave. NW. Fire caused more than $700,000 in damage at an auto repair shop in Rochester late Friday. The building was destroyed. Several vehicles were also considered total losses.
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Firefighters were called to a fire at a northwest Rochester auto-repair shop late Friday.

Around 10:56 p.m., emergency dispatchers received several calls from people reporting they could smell something burning int the area of 7th Street and 11th Avenue Northwest to Civic Center Drive.

Firefighters arrived and determined the smell was coming from a building at 533 6th Ave. NW, the location of the Werkstatt 533 auto-repair shop. Heavy smoke was seen seeping around the overhead doors on the west side of the building.

When firefighters were about to enter the building, a part of the roof collapsed inside. Firefighters were ordered to stay out of the structure. There were no reported injuries.

Deputy Chief Steve Belau said the fire apparently had been burning for some time before individuals in the neighborhood started smelling smoke. The collapse of the roof indicated there was quite a bit of fire occurring inside the structure before it was discovered.

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Defensive operations were established outside the building. The fire was so extensive, all on-duty firefighters were called to the scene.

Tactics were used to keep the fire from spreading to other buildings. The complex at the address held four businesses in three separate buildings. Their walls were all touching, giving the appearance of one building.

It was determined that the fire started inside 533 6th Ave. NW. Firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to the adjacent buildings — a vacant space, a gallery and an automotive business.

There were no fire alarm systems or sprinklers in the buildings. The fire department used two aerial ladders and thousands of gallons of water to keep the fire from spreading. There were several cars inside the business that fed the fire with gasoline and tires.

After two hours of attempting to control the fire, small fires were still smoldering beneath the collapsed roof, which continued to burn overnight.

Preliminary damages were estimated in excess of $700,000, includes the building, the service equipment and several luxury cars, which were totaled by the fire.

There is a risk that the east wall of the building may collapse, so Sixth Avenue Northwest will be narrowed to two travel lanes, with no parking on the east side. The sidewalk on the west side of Sixth Avenue in front of the building will also be closed until the structure can be made safe.

The Rochester Fire Marshal's Office was on the scene today and will be investigating the cause and origin of the fire.

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"Firefighters will risk a lot to save a life and risk a little to save property, but we won't risk firefighters at all to save that which is already lost," Belau said. "In this case, the undiscovered fire had done its damage before firefighters even arrived."

63220ceff0c8d57a51a876a4c8044660.jpg
Rochester firefighters responded to call of heavy smoke between 7th Street and Civic Center Drive along 6th Ave. NW. Friday night at 11 p.m. to find a fire inside Werkstatt European Auto Service at 533 6th Ave. NW in Rochester, Minn. Interior damage is extensive including several vehicles, tools, and equipment. As firefighters prepared to enter the building a portion of the roof collapsed and the supporting i-beams also fell making it unsafe to enter. This is the rear of the building.

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