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Local firefighters lend a hand in Sartell mill blaze

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news Alexandria, 56308

Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

Minnesota firefighters enjoy getting together for conventions like the statewide event Alexandria is hosting next week.

But they're also quick to help one another out in a pinch.

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It happened again last week when a devastating fire tore through the Verso paper mill in Sartell, which is about 70 miles southeast of Alexandria.

When Sartell exhausted all of its local resources battling the huge blaze, the state fire marshal activated a statewide mutual aid plan.

For Alexandria Assistant Fire Chief Bill Thoennes, that meant contacting fire departments throughout the Lakes Region that he represents through the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association.More than 50 fire departments throughout the state helped battle the fire, including those from Alexandria, Brandon, Carlos, Evansville, Garfield, Kensington and Miltona. They were called in last Thursday and helped provide manpower or equipment through Sunday.

Thousands of huge smoldering paper bales had to be removed from the plant, each one weighing about two tons, Thoennes said.

Firefighters were assigned specific tasks, from pulling out the paper bales to operating ladder trucks to helping with roof operations. One firefighter's sole job, Thoennes said, was to keep an eye on the railroad tracks and inform the operations crew when a train would be coming through the scene.

In all, firefighters doused the building with more than 4 million gallons of water.

Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Karrow had high praise for all of Thoennes' work, which included more than seven hours just on the phone, coordinating the assistance.

"He put in a lot of time and effort in those four days," said Karrow. "He really hustled and deserves an 'atta boy' for a job well done."

Read related story Painting the town fire-engine red.

EdenloffAl Edenloff Al Edenloff was born in Alexandria and later moved to Parkers Prairie where he graduated in 1979. While in high school, he wrote sports stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent. Al graduated from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communication and started at the Echo Press as a summer intern in 1983. He worked as a reporter until 1990 when he was named editor. He's earned several writing and reporting awards from the Minnesota Newspaper Association (MNA) and the National Newspaper Association. He was presented with the Minnesota News Council's Journalism Accountability Award and is a three-time winner of the MNA's Herman Roe Editorial Writing Award. In his spare time, Al enjoys golfing, fishing, biking, watching sports, cooking and reading mystery novels.

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