Fire destroyed three businesses Monday when flames ripped through tourist-loving downtown Grand Marais, engulfing a popular restaurant and two gift shops.
The owner of the Crooked Spoon Cafe called to report a fire in the back of the Wisconsin Street restaurant at 1:19 p.m., according to Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen. With high wind gusts, the fire quickly spread to neighboring stores Picnic & Pine and White Pine North, fully engulfing the buildings, the sheriff said. No injuries were reported.
Firefighters from various departments including Grand Marais, Lutsen, Colvill and Maple Hill battled the blaze all afternoon, finally containing it by about 5 p.m., according to a news release. Power to the area was cut and the city used a backhoe to help knock the fire down.
The fire was an additional blow for the town nestled along the shore of Lake Superior, whose economy relies on tourism that is taking a hit from the coronavirus pandemic. The Gunflint Trail highway begins there and it serves as gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It is a popular destination for many Minnesotans and others around the country.
Gov. Tim Walz tweeted Monday that he was sorry to hear the terrible news of the fire: "These businesses hold a special place in many of our hearts. I'm keeping the tight-knit Grand Marais community in my thoughts today. And tomorrow, we will rebuild."
It appeared that an alley was preventing the fire from spreading to the popular Sven & Ole's pizza and other shops nearby, said Jim Boyd, executive director of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce, who witnessed the blaze with smoke billowing high into the air.
The State Fire Marshal will investigate the cause of the fire.