Fire department says blaze is arson

Published 11:04 am Monday, November 19, 2012

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Neighbors: Teens had been going in and out of house before

ALBERT LEA — A condemned home burned Sunday afternoon on Winter Avenue in Albert Lea in what authorities suspect was arson.

Albert Lea police and fire authorities said they suspected arson because there was no electrical or gas hookup to the abandoned home.

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Neighbors have reported seeing teens in and out of the house in the past, according to police. An arson investigation team will meet and look at the home.

The large, two-story home, at 318 Winter Ave., was reported burning around 2:30 p.m. Albert Lea firefighters and police responded, and more firefighters responded in the next half hour as the flames spread.

Flames were first seen in what looked like an attic space above the second floor. The roof eventually caved in around 2:50 p.m. as flames spread in the second floor.

The abandoned home had previously been condemned by the city of Albert Lea for its structural integrity. However, the house is owned by Freeborn County because it is a former meth lab. Albert Lea Police Chief Dwaine Winkels expects that the home will be demolished, hopefully within a few weeks.

No one was reported hurt in the fire.

South winds of about 15 mph fueled the flames northward; fortunately, an abandoned rail corridor is on the north side of the house, rather than another home. The space aided firefighters on a ladder truck in dousing the flames.

Alliant Energy personnel responded around 3 p.m. to sever the wires leading to the home. On the 60-degree afternoon a crowd of more than 50 people gathered to watch firefighters battle the blaze. They stood on Winter Avenue, Summer Avenue and Dunham Street, as well as the former rail corridor.