By Sara Carlson, Alexandria mayor

No one wants to find out how strong we are as a community by having a disaster – but, when we have a disaster it is great to know how strong we are!

The fire on Broadway last week was unbelievable, unexpected and heartbreaking. No words can be put on paper that would describe the utter shock and disbelief that occurred. Business owners lost their business, their livelihood; employees lost their jobs; and the community lost historic buildings and the quaint atmosphere that is our downtown.

Above those businesses were 13 apartments and all of those people lost everything they owned. The heartbreak and loss will not be over in a week or a month – this will take time and effort to work through for the many involved up and down Broadway. There is a donation site at Alexandria Area Community Foundation that will accept financial contributions at http://www.communitygiving.org/donate/alexandria-response-fund. Those funds will be distributed through West Central Minnesota Communities Action, Inc. You can find more information about that online or by calling 320-304-3458.

Thank you to all the firefighters, first responders, law enforcement and people who provided food for people working long hours fighting this fire. The list is too long to thank everyone. Once again our community rallied around helped out those in need, getting help to displaced people and support to those who lost their buildings and businesses. They are the heroes of this terrible tragedy; they gave us all hope. At a meeting Friday morning, the downtown area merchants and supporting entities met. One of the things they wanted to do was have a “thank you” day for everyone who pitched in to help. Information on that will be forthcoming.

I would like to address what we will or will not see in the next couple of weeks. There will most likely be little done with the site for a few weeks. This may be disappointing to some as it is hard to look at those buildings and not want to get going right away. However, we had an opportunity to meet with the insurance company investigators on Friday. They said at this time, there is no reason to believe this was an intentional act. The insurance companies’ investigators will be back on scene in a few weeks to complete their investigation of the area. At that point, they will take two or three days and go through the whole fire ravaged area with the state fire marshal. When they complete their investigation they can begin demolition.

Why will it take so long? There are legal guidelines that have to be followed before the insurance investigators can come back and do their due diligence. There must be a 10 business day notification given to make sure everyone involved has a chance to meet on site and do the investigation. Getting a date and time where multiple people and agencies can meet is tough. Also, there have been many fires in the Midwest lately and expert, trained fire investigators are stretched thin. Each site has to be gone through thoroughly and checked to ensure there will be no further litigation, questions or concerns from those affected.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of this community, our neighboring communities who came to our aid and everyone involved. It just demonstrates what a wonderful strong community we are. I was contacted by numerous mayors, representatives and senators all caring and thoughtful, willing to help. We will work on a plan to try and facilitate getting people back on their feet again as soon as possible.

We will continue to have a thriving community. Downtown will rebound. Most of all, the message from everyone is we are ALEXANDRIA STRONG! We have risen from tough times before and we will again. We believe that we will, we know we will endure, that we always have and will. We are strong – we are Alexandria!

Sara Carlson is the mayor of Alexandria. “In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.