Gov. Tim Walz admits that what happened at his press conference in Nicollet Friday was a first in his long political career.

Walz, dozens of state and local officials, as well as a contingent of Nicollet first responders, law enforcement, residents and media were packed into the Nicollet Fire Hall as Walz was announcing a funding plan to finish Highway 14 as a four-lane from Nicollet to New Ulm.

Walz and others were staged in front of firetrucks and Walz was just beginning to talk when about a dozen radios being carried by firefighters and deputies went off with a dispatcher announcing there was a barn fire near North Mankato.

Firefighters scrambled to the trucks as people moved a few tables and the trucks filed out of the hall, lights on and sirens wailing. It was likely one of the fastest responses the volunteer department has ever had as members usually have to drive to the fire hall from their places of work or homes when called.

When the responders were gone and the doors closed, Walz led a round of applause for them and noted that having good roads helps first responders get to a scene more quickly and safely.

“Unfortunately, a lot of these calls are for accidents on Highway 14.”

The firefighters battled a large fire in an empty former chicken barn on Highway 14 a few miles west of North Mankato.

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