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Fire destroys Rutland meat locker Sunday

By Staff | Feb 25, 2015

A fire destroyed Thul’s West River Meats in Rutland Sunday afternoon. Firefighters fought the fire for nine hours.

RUTLAND – Don Thul watched his business go up in flames Sunday afternoon, as Humboldt firefighters worked to contain the blaze.

However, Thul, who owns Thul’s West River Meats, said he will rebuild in Rutland.

Humboldt firefighters responded at about 3:30 p.m. Sunday. They battled the fire for several hours, leaving the scene after midnight.

Thul said he got a call saying his business was on fire, but he was half an hour away.

“By the time I got there, the Fire Department was there and they were working to put it out,” he said.

The building was a complete loss. Firefighters were forced to rip the building apart, then put the scraps in a large pile across street.

Thul said the fire isn’t ending the business, though.

“We will rebuild in Rutland,” he said. “I have a great customer base. I don’t want to see another small business leave a small rural community.”

Losing the business would affect not only him, but the entire town, he said.

“It’s devastating for the community on a tax basis and on an employment basis,” he said. “Everything that keeps the town alive, you lose a piece of it when a business goes under.”

Thul doesn’t know yet when he will rebuild – but wants to be open again as soon as possible, he said.

He bought the business 14 years ago.

“We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it,” he said. “It started as a closed business to a business that did very well.”

The previous owner of the business, who sold it to Thul for retirement, visited him Monday morning.

“We both stood there and cried,” Thul said.

Thul said he’s thankful for the support from the community and the Fire Department.

“There was so many people that have offered to help me,” he said. “It just goes to prove that the business we had, people appreciated it.”

Jim Gronbach, assistant fire chief for the Humboldt Fire Department, said firefighters fought the fire for about nine hours.

“When we got there, there was a lot of smoke coming from the building,” he said. “You couldn’t see flames right away.”

They found most of the fire was in the attic, but as the roof began to weaken 45 minutes into the fight, firefighters had to leave the building.

Gronbach said as they fought the fire, they were concerned about the post office, which was less than a foot away from the fire.

“We were protecting the post office,” he said.

Firefighters prevented the fire from spreading to the post office, though there was light smoke damage to the outside wall.

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