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FIRE UPDATE 11:15 A.M.: Four more departments called to SunOpta fire

Celeste Beam | Echo Press1 / 3
Al Edenloff | Echo Press2 / 3
Al Edenloff | Echo Press3 / 3

Four more fire departments have been called to help fight the industrial fire at SunOpta in Alexandria this morning.

A few minutes ago, firefighters in Evansville, Kensington, Parkers Prairie and Glenwood were contacted to provide extra manpower. This brings the number of departments battling the fire to 11.

Firefighters were being urged to take breaks in the fire station and rehydrate as they contend with 30-below windchills.

The fire is now under control but clouds of smoke continue to pour out of the heavily damaged structure.

No injuries have been reported and there is no safety risk to the public, according to authorities.

A news release issued by the Alexandria Police Department said that the damage to the SunOpta commercial building is "in excess of millions."

Also, according to information from the police: The initial fire call came in at 1 a.m. The fire was located in the back of the building in the warehouse area.

Five departments initially responded - Alexandria, Carlos, Forada, Garfield and Osakis.

Shortly before 10 a.m., two other departments, Brandon and Miltona, were called in to provide more hoses, a pumper and extra manpower.

At 10 a.m., fire crews reported that the blaze is 70 percent contained.

Roads leading to the business, which is located along 3rd Avenue West, west of the Douglas County's new jail, have been closed.

Chemical response teams from as far away as St. Paul and Morris were called in to assess if there were any chemical dangers. An official on the scene told the newspaper that no dangerous chemicals were released during the fire and the potentially hazardous materials have been moved away from the fire zone.

SunOpta, which was honored with Alexandria's Business and Industrial Appreciation Award in 2006, is the largest producer of shelf-stable soy-based beverages in the United States. SunOpta has two divisions in Alexandria - one in the industrial park and the other on 3rd Avenue. The facility along 3rd Avenue, established in 1987, reported that it had 70 employees in a 2010 manufacturers and support industries directory published by the Alexandria Economic Development Commission.

Adding to the challenge of fighting the blaze are extremely cold temperatures. Temperatures plummeted to nearly 30-degrees below zero this morning. The Douglas County area is under a windchill advisory.

Watch for updates to this breaking story and more coverage in Wednesday's Echo Press.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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