The fury of the early morning fire at Chateau Apartments was evident throughout a large section of Minot Thursday. Charred and burning debris lifted by the heat and flames was carried more than a mile on gusty winds.
At Jim Hill Middle School and the surrounding neighborhood, black fragments from the fire peppered snow covered streets and sidewalks. While most of the burnt fragments were about the size of a quarter, many were much larger.
A burnt section of Styrofoam insulation that fell from the sky onto the parking lot at First Western Bank on South Broadway was about the size of this newspaper page. Small pieces of charred debris were scattered throughout the area as well. The distance from Chateau Apartments near the Arrowhead Mall to the Broadway bank is 1.2 miles. Some debris was seen at even greater distances from the fire.
Fred Beuchler, left, and Eric Hayhurst, hold a charred piece of insulation that dropped onto the First Western Bank parking lot at 900 S. Broadway early Thursday morning. The burnt debris originated from the Chateau Apartments fire 1.2 miles away.
While some of the burnt debris was Styrofoam, presumably from sheets used for insulation, there was a variety of other burning embers rising skyward from the blaze.
"Because that building was under construction there was a lot of Styrofoam, roofing materials, a lot of things blowing around," said C. J. Craven, Minot fire chief. "Styrofoam melts and burns. When something gets hot enough, like that fire was, almost anything will burn."
According to Craven, there were a few anxious moments created by the scattering embers but no notable secondary fires were started.
"Luckily there was snow on the ground and on the roofs," said Craven. "On a dry day in the summer that can really be a problem. We did some chasing but I don't think there were any spot fires that amounted to anything at all."
Firemen did what they could to combat the release of burning embers floating away on strong winds. Water was sprayed over the top of the blaze to knock hot
embers down before they could drift away from the fire and potentially cause problems elsewhere.
The fire was the second major blaze at the same location. A February 2012 blaze razed the east building of the Chateau Apartments. The new construction was at the site of the earlier fire. Once again the west building of Chateau Apartments was spared.
"I was surprised," said Craven. "I've been a fireman for 33 years and I don't think I've ever seen a fire in a duplicate spot like that."