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Investigation into Winona fire focuses on possible electrical cause

Posted by: Jenna Ross Updated: September 17, 2013 - 11:23 AM

An investigation into what caused a Friday fire that destroyed several buildings in Winona's downtown is centering, so far, on faulty electrics.

Winona Fire Chief Curt Bittle said Tuesday that investigators for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) did some “preliminary work” over the weekend. Based on that, “they’re leaning at a possible electrical cause.”

But an official cause won't be determined until all five agencies do a thorough investigation on Sept. 25. (That’s the soonest date the many agencies involved could all make work, Bittle said.)

The fire started in the Winona Islamic Center, an L-shaped building that includes a mosque. "I think we’ve narrowed [the fire's origin] down to the rear part of the building," Bittle said.

Since Friday's fire, members of the Islamic center have been worshipping in churches that have offered up their space.

The Winona Daily News reports that the center's leaders plan to rebuild. Mohamed Elhindi, president of the center’s board, told the paper that “absolutely we will be rebuilding, and Winona will have an Islamic Center."

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