Williston Fire Update - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Williston Fire Update

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Fire crews are still on scene nearly 24 hours after the initial 9-1-1 call to a business that's been a part of downtown Williston for decades.

The building that's home to Gaffaney's was reduced to rubble in a fire that began last night and continued into today.

As Jennifer Thorgramson reports, when the basement fire at Gaffaney's could not be extinguished at its source, firefighters turned their attention to saving surrounding businesses.

More than 60 responders have had full day of fire watch doused by thousands of gallons of water.

Williston Fire Chief Alan Hanson says it could be more than a million gallons of water before the fire at Gaffaney's Stationary in Williston is out - safe enough for crews to leave the scene.

(Alan Hanson, Williston Fire Department Chief) "We made several attempts to hit the seed of the fire but fire crews were pushed back by intense heat. When the fire broke through the floor, it was declared a defensive fire and crews were backed out, we were evacuated at that time."

The initial 9-1-1 call was made at 6:30 Sunday night, and an officer had the first fire crew on scene at 6:39.

(Alan Hanson, Williston Fire Department Chief) "We know it started in the basement, we don't know why it started in the basement."

The State Fire Marshal is on scene to determine the 'why' as soon as the building is secure.

The location of the fire - in the basement - is key to why firefighters were forced to work defense against the fire.

(Alan Hanson, Williston Fire Department Chief) "A typical downtown style building, they have an isolated basement. One way in, one way out. There's no windows you can pop in through to try to get the heat out of there. I've seen this before. They're just really hard to fight. You get in there and hit it hard, sometimes mother nature lets you in, other times, mother nature says no."

Early responders tried to make their own way to the 'seed' of the fire.

Knife River had equipment near by, the company is in Williston doing road construction.

(Alan Hanson, Williston Fire Department Chief) "We had them come in and try to puncture the side of the building and dig into the basement so we could try to get into the seed of that fire. It was not successful. We did another hole in there. That was not successful. It broke through the floor. We had a lot of fire, more heat, more flames. With the conditions going on in the back of the building we decided to pull that side of the building down to give us more access."

Temperatures were upwards of 90 degrees in Williston on Sunday - that was before suiting up and being sent near the flames - which makes 'no injuries' a victory.

(Alan Hanson, Williston Fire Department Chief) "There were no injuries at all out of this. Which is really lucky when we have that many people milling around the scene. Nobody hurt, no twisted ankles, nothing."

The building on the other hand will be a loss.

Officials have already condemned the structure.

One building to the east sustained water and smoke damage.

Hanson says there is concern that the facade on the building may be separating - so the two buildings east of Gaffaney's are still evacuated until they're deems structurally sound.

(Alan Hanson, Williston Fire Department Chief) "We never like going defensive. We like doing everything we can to save that structure. We do what we can. A valiant effort by our team. Some of our top firefighters were the first ones in there. Very well experienced. Strong firefighters and they just couldn't get in there."

In Williston, Jennifer Thorgramson KX News.

Fire Chief Alan Hanson says fire crews had a great deal of help from law enforcement through the night.

He extended a thank you to the businesses who sent food and water for the crews - and even fuel for the trucks.

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