An inspector for the state fire marshal’s office was on-scene at the Collins Elevator Inc. Old Depot Country Store for 2 1/2 to three hours Thursday.
The store, located at 2638 N. Railroad St., Collins, was a total loss.
“Investigators say the fire started in the gift shop in the office portion of the business. (The) initial damage is estimated at $250,000,” said Shane Cartmill, state fire marshalspokesman.
The cause of the fire is undetermined at this point.
“We’re not sure what the cause is. … It is under investigation at this time,” Townsend Township Fire Chief Al McGinn said.
“We’re not saying it was intentionally set; it could have been accidental,” the chief added.
The fire started early Thursday morning in the southwest corner of the building, where the office was located.
Townsend sent 12 to 13 firefighters to the scene. McGinn said his crew was on-scene from 4:44 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
“I think they got our dollar’s worth,” McGinn said.
Five area departments sent firefighters for mutual aid: Berlin Township, Camden, Florence, Norwalk and Wakeman. It took three to 3 1/2 hours to get the blaze under control.
“We used roughly 153,000 gallons (of water),” McGinn said.
About 1 mile from the store, he said he could tell the fire was going to be significant from the way it “lit up the sky.”
“I was in the first truck. As soon as we turned the corner onto Hartland Center Road off of (U.S.) 20, you could see the glow,” McGinn said.
Berlin Township sent six men with a tanker and rescue truck and returned to station about 8:30 a.m.
Norwalk sent seven firefighters, a tanker and a pumper and arrived at 5:05 a.m. The crew headed back to the city about 2 1/2 hours later.
“(We) used the gun deck and 2 1/2-inch hand lines to fight the fire. (We) also had two personnel delivering water with the tanker,” Norwalk Fire Capt. Don Helton wrote in his brief report.
Wakeman Fire District had 10 to 12 firefighters at the scene. In total, there were about 50 firefighters battling the blaze.
“I can’t commend our neighboring fire departments enough,” McGinn said.
Townsend firefighters returned to the scene about 5:45 p.m. for a rekindle. McGinn said it involved a “hopper wagon,” a four-wheel cart pulled by a tractor, which typically holds bulk grain.
“We had wet it down originally,” the chief said.