A large fire in the middle of the night in Anoka County heavily damaged three family-operated businesses entering their busiest time of the year.
No injuries were reported in the Wednesday morning blaze that is believed to have started around 1:30 a.m. at Waldoch Crafts, a van and truck conversion operation in the 13900 block of Lake Drive NE., between Lino Lakes and Forest Lake. The fire also significantly damaged the adjacent Bergen’s Greenhouse, according to a statement from the company.
A third business directly behind Bergen’s also was damaged. R-Z Enterprises is still trying to assess the loss to its building at 13821 Lake Drive.
“The building is unstable. … So far there are at least seven trucks and three trailers that are a total loss,” said Nadine Kondrick, whose brother-in-law Randy Riley co-owns the company that does commercial and residential lawn maintenance, landscaping and snow removal.
A passing motorist called in the fire, and neighbors in the area said they heard explosions about the time the fire started, a dispatcher with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said.
Crews from as many as 13 agencies were on the scene at one point Wednesday morning. “They are trying to get it knocked down. It’s been difficult,” a dispatcher said.
The blaze was so intense investigators were waiting to enter what remained of the buildings at midday Wednesday, said Sheriff’s Cmdr. Paul Sommer. Nearby Lake Drive was closed to traffic until well past the morning commute.
In a statement issued about eight hours after the fire began, Bergen’s described the damage to its growing range as “substantial.”
“Business will be shifted to our other locations, and will continue as planned,” the statement continued. “With our multiple growing ranges, we will continue to meet our customers’ needs as the spring season unfolds. … We can assure you that repair work will be quickly set into motion.”
Bergen’s, a fourth-generation family-owned business, has been producing, marketing and distributing plants since 1921. Its distribution services reach not only Minnesota but Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Waldoch’s is also family owned and operated, having starting in 1974.
Owner and founder Don Waldoch was on the scene by 2:15 a.m., in time to see flames shooting over the roof of his business.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Waldoch said. “We got off lucky.”
Waldoch said one of its two main buildings burned, and he considers it lost. “It housed most of our inventory: wheels, tires, running boards … anything put on a truck and a van.”
Bergen’s, located directly behind Waldoch’s, “was a complete loss,” said Waldoch, who spoke Tuesday morning with Bergen’s manager. “They are devastated. This is their growing season.”
Waldoch added that “this is our busiest time of the year also, but we’ll get through it. We’ll get ’er.”