Authorities on Tuesday continued to sift through the rubble of the Press Bar and Parlor in St. Cloud, trying to determine what sparked the large and "dangerous" fire that destroyed the 100-year-old building and shut down some nearby downtown streets and businesses.

More than 60 firefighters and crew members from three departments fought the blaze, which was discovered about 2:40 a.m. Monday and took much of the day to extinguish. The bar, which had been at 502 W. St. Germain St. since the 1940s, is a total loss and the building was to be razed.

"This was a dangerous fire to fight," Mike Post, St. Cloud fire marshal and lead investigator, said during a news briefing Tuesday. "It is probably one of the largest fires in my career."

St. Cloud Fire Chief Dean Wrobbel said the fire is believed to have started in the basement before spreading into the walls and ceiling by the time crews arrived. Intense heat, thick smoke and "zero visibility" inside the building made it difficult to battle.

Firefighters had to be pulled from inside the structure due to the unsafe conditions.

"It had a head start on us," Wrobbel said. "It was a pretty scary time. Firefighters were brave and did a great job."

Two nearby businesses, Cowboy Jack's and the Red Carpet Nightclub, were saved as the fire was contained to the Press Bar and Parlor. The other business and downtown streets were expected to reopen within a few days.

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis called it a "sad loss" for the Press Bar's employees and the city.

"Buildings can be replaced," he said Tuesday. "Fortunately nobody was injured and nobody lost their lives."

Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Minnesota State Fire Marshal's Office and the St. Cloud Fire Department will be looking at each piece of debris in an attempt to learn the fire's origin, Post said.

"It will take some time," Post said. "The [immediate] goal is to get the city back in service" and restore access to nearby businesses.

Tim Harlow