By Gabby Landsverk, Staff Writer
The Bowlus Auto Center has been slated for demolition after a fire in the early morning hours of Nov. 24 completely destroyed the structure, according to Bowlus Fire Chief Mike Scholz.
“The building was a total loss, but nobody got hurt,” Scholz said.
The business owner, Jaret Glader, said he’s lucky to be alive after the incident.
Glader said he was working late Monday night, as he often does, to finish a job.
He estimates the fire started around midnight
“I was cutting exhaust and something, I don’t know what, just lit up,” Glader said. “I heard a sound, looked over and saw the work bench was in flame.”
The first fire extinguisher malfunctioned, Glader said. By the time he used a second extinguisher, the flames were too high to douse.
“It went scary quick,” Glader said. “All I could think about was getting out of the building.”
He recalls tripping and falling in the rush to flee the flames, making for a harrowing, narrow escape.
Glader said that once outside, he felt a numbness and tingling in his face and arms, possibly from the fumes of burning chemicals.
Medical personnel determined that Glader was otherwise unharmed, but cautioned him not to drive and sent him home with an escort.
Glader’s family, however, was on their way to the scene of the fire as Glader was being taken home to Holdingford. Because of a communication mix-up, Glader’s wife Tara, and daughters Mya and Morgen spent a terrifying 20 minutes with no idea of where he was or if he was safe.
The family was soon reunited, to everyone’s relief.
“We’re just glad everyone’s okay,” Glader said. “Things can be replaced.”
However, he said the auto shop was the family’s sole source of income, and the future remains uncertain as they wait to hear from insurance companies. He estimated that over $50,000 worth of tools, his livelihood, were lost in the fire.
Scholz said that the building’s location on Main Street made the fire especially dangerous because of the proximity of other businesses, increasing the risk that the fire could spread. He added that Royalton, Holdingford and Little Falls firefighters assisted the Bowlus Department on the scene.
Scholz said it took more than 40 firefighters a total of five hours to put out the blaze.
“Due to the skill of our guys and the help from other departments, we were able to contain it and saved the rest of Bowlus,” Scholz said.
Glader expressed gratitude to all the departments that responded to the incident, as well as special thanks to Cheryl Czech, one of the Bowlus First Responders who assisted him.
A GoFundMe page has been created to assist the Gladers, and donations can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/74by29m4.