The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 9, 2014

Update: Fire engulfs WW Blacktopping (video)

A massive blaze requiring firefighters and equipment from seven area fire departments destroyed the primary facility of WW Blacktopping just north of Mankato Sunday afternoon.

The office and attached shop — home to the paving contractor's equipment-maintenance operations — were closed at the time of the blaze, which was discovered when a fire alarm was tripped at 1:40 p.m. Sunday. The Mankato police officer who responded to the alarm found the gate locked but smoke emanating from the building.

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Just outside of Mankato city limits, the fire is in the coverage area of the Kasota Volunteer Fire Department, which was immediately joined by Mankato fire crews. MAP

"The fire department was able to save some of the office equipment," said Lt. Jeff Wersal of the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Department.

The building was a total loss, however, including multiple pieces of equipment which were in the shop for repairs.

"This obviously is a devastating blow to me," said company co-owner and President Mitch Wolff, noting that the shop, office and business records were all destroyed, along with major construction equipment . "... We had probably eight or nine pieces of equipment in the shop for maintenance."

The fire came just as winter is ending and the construction seasons is approaching, but Wolff said the company was well-insured and he will find a way to get crews equipped and working on scheduled projects by the time the snow melts and the ground thaws.

"I'll have to," he said. "Our season doesn't start for a while yet."

Any hope of saving the building quickly disappeared Sunday afternoon.

Within an hour of the fire alarm sounding, billowing black smoke could be seen more than a mile away, and fire departments from Eagle Lake, Cleveland, Madison Lake, North Mankato and St. Peter had joined the fight.

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