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Winona fire investigation expected to start Wednesday of next week


WINONA, Minn. (WEAU) -- The investigation into what caused a fire in a downtown area has been pushed back.

The Winona Fire Chief said he had hoped the investigation would start Monday.

What’s normally a spot for the Islamic Center was fenced off and quiet.

The fire destroyed three buildings, and left at least 19 people without a home, but crews can’t really get down to business again until Wednesday of next week.

Fire Chief Curt Bittle said that’s the soonest all of the agencies involved including the FBI can meet.

“If it was X, Y, Z grocery store we probably wouldn’t be dealing with this, but being that it was an Islamic Center, all of the agencies were called in,” said Bittle.

Bittle said no cause is being ruled out.

“There’s nothing to lead us in the direction of it being arson, at the time but we’ll let the fire investigators determine that,” said Bittle.

Torry Moore owns Sole Sport, an outdoor sporting goods store.

He wants to stay downtown.

“It’s kind of the heart of the small community all of the time, so I’d rather be down here, where it’s a small business community versus out in a strip mall somewhere,” said Moore.

Moore met with his insurance adjuster Monday but is waiting for word on damage payments.

Some who were displaced because of the fire said they’re grateful they made it out safely.

“I lost a lot of stuff, but it could have been a lot worse, and my mom came this weekend and helped with everything,” said Hayley Grams.

“It was kind of a bonding experience for a lot of us. I hadn’t really met a lot of my neighbors before. We were all out there, just really glad we were all out there alive together,” said Chelsea Knox.

Hayley Grams and Chelsea Knox are both seniors at Winona State University.

Grams found another apartment, and is in the process of moving out.

Knox is staying with friends, but hasn’t decided if she’ll go back to her apartment yet.

Bittle said it hasn’t been determined where the fire started, but based on reports from crews the bulk of the fire was in the Islamic Center.


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