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Vodka and sun a bad mix that torched liquor store

  • Article by: ALEJANDRA MATOS
  • Star Tribune
  • November 5, 2012 - 5:35 PM

Red Lion Liquors in Burnsville is back in business after a vodka display became a liquid magnifying glass and sparked a fire inside the store.

"We had that display there for years. The sun was coming in through the windows just right," said manager Dave Hautman.

The sun pierced through the vodka bottles and hit a cardboard box, causing smoke to form.

"It smoldered for an hour and 30 minutes, and the flames got to about 12 feet," he said. "The best thing about it is that it was all on video."

Hautman first received a phone call from the alarm company the morning of Oct. 21. They reported movement in the store, so he initially thought something had fallen over. But when more alarms went off and he started getting calls from law enforcement, he knew it was a bigger problem.

The fire destroyed the vodka display and caused smoke damage in the store. Hautman said the damage will likely be estimated at more than $100,000. The store had to toss $54,000 worth of liquor that was damaged by the heat.

The damage could have been worse, Hautman said, if responders hadn't acted so quickly. The relatively minimal damage meant the store was able to open this past weekend.

The Burnsville fire marshal had seen fire start from magnified sun before, with a prism hanging from a chandelier that lit a chair in someone's home, Hautman said. He now has taken greater precautions, including tinting the store's windows.

"I had shades on these windows before, and we would pull them down in the fall and spring to keep the sun from cooking the wines," Hautman said. "We never thought something like this would happen, but this was the perfect storm."

Alejandra Matos • 612-673-4028 Twitter: @amatos12

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