Building near state fairgrounds 'destroyed' by fire, says deputy fire chief

Tuesday morning, crews were at the scene of a large fire that badly damaged a business in St. Paul, near the fairgrounds.

One witness, Sarah Farber, said she woke up to a neighbor at her door. That neighbor said she had heard what sounded like three loud bangs.

A St. Paul Fire Department deputy chief tells KSTP the fire started around 12:40 a.m. in a building that houses Universal Engineering Services. It sits just off of Snelling Avenue, on West Snelling Service Road.

There is also storage space that the building owner leases to someone else. Investigators believe the fire accidentally started in that area. No one was inside the building when it started and no one was hurt while putting it out.

The KSTP crew at the scene reported seeing flames that rose above the tree line.

"It's difficult [to battle] because when you arrive at something at one in the morning you're not sure what it is," Deputy Chief Roy Mokosso said. "Even if you're very familiar with the area, you know it's a commercial building [and] it could store anything from hazardous material, to pallets, to just office space."

Farber said the scene was chaotic as the fire broke out.

"I think there was a little bit of panic at first when the building exploded and we didn't know what was going on and everyone was out, we were wondering what was going on," Farber said. "But now that the fire and police are here, I think we're feeling a little bit reassured especially now that they're telling us our houses are going to be OK, that they're trying to keep the fire pushed back." 

Fire crews said they were able to gain control of the fire so it wasn't able to spread to other buildings or homes.

Mokosso says the building is destroyed and will be torn down. Investigators will do their best to try and find the cause, but because of the condition of the building, it is going to be difficult to find.