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Briefly

Downtown Alexandria hit by fire

ALEXANDRIA (AP) — Firefighters battled a massive fire Tuesday that destroyed part of downtown Alexandria in western Minnesota and forced the evacuation of about two dozen residents.

About 120 firefighters from multiple departments are working to put out the fire. Crews were called around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.

City officials said the fire has destroyed four buildings. Crews are demolishing those buildings to make sure the fire does not spread.

“All these buildings have tenants above. They are all out and safe, but everything they have is completely destroyed,” Amy Lesnar, owner of the Creative Touch Boutique, a clothing and gift shop, told the Star Tribune. “They were literally woken up and evacuated.”

About 20 people who live above the businesses have been displaced by the fire, but no injuries are reported. The American Red Cross is assisting the residents. Officials say the needs of the displaced residents are being met, and there is no need for donations, other than money.

Pam Botker, co-owner of Creative Touch and president of the city’s Downtown Merchants Association, said her business and others have sustained significant smoke damage.

The area around the fire is barricaded, and people are asked to avoid the area.

Douglas County Emergency Manager Julie Anderson said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Fargo to begin filling sandbags

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A city building dubbed Sandbag Central will soon be open for business as Fargo leaders prepare for spring flooding along the Red River, the city administrator said Monday night.

Bruce Grubb told city commissioners of plans to fill 250,000 sandbags in order to protect the city to 41 feet, which would be 23 feet over flood stage. The latest outlook from the National Weather Service shows a 10% probability that the river will reach 39 feet in the Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota area.

KFGO radio reported that Grubb called the chance of a severe flood “a flip of the coin” and added that the city would rather “err on the side of caution.” Volunteers filled hundreds of thousands of sandbags last year for anticipated flooding that never materialized.

Sandbag Central is located in a building that is normally a parking garage for garbage trucks. Plans are to begin sandbag operations on March 10.

Depending on the weather in the next several weeks, it’s possible Fargo could see “high water” on the Red River as soon as the middle of March, according to assistant city engineer Nathan Boerboom.

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