Fire destroys well-known Arnolds Park restaurant

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Area firefighters scramble to contain an overnight fire that destroyed Mineral City Mill and Grill early Monday morning. The business is completely destroyed, leaving about 40 employees out of work. (Photo by Tarica Yungbluth)

A deputy with the state fire marshal's office is still trying to determine the cause of a fire that lit up the sky over Arnolds Park and destroyed a well-known restaurant early Monday morning.

Firefighters were paged at about 1:56 a.m. to Mineral City Mill and Grill near East Lake Okoboji. Milford and Spirit Lake firefighters were called for additional manpower and equipment, according to Arnolds Park/Okoboji Fire Chief Christ Yungbluth.

"Actually, some firefighters who had to pass the building to get to the station said it was going pretty good through the roof already," he said. "When we arrived, firefighters did attempt to make an entry into the structure to extinguish the fire, but due to the heavy smoke conditions and the danger related to the air conditioning and heating units located on the roof -- right where the fire was burning through -- we decided to pull them back out. Those heating and air conditioning units weigh quite a bit and I didn't want to risk having one fall on one of the interior firefighters."

The Arnolds Park/Okoboji Fire Department and local law enforcement officials monitored the Mineral City Mill and Grill building throughout the day to watch for flare-ups. (Photo by Russ Mitchell)

No one was injured in the fire and only one person was inside the structure when the fire broke out. Three apartment units are located on the lower level of the restaurant, which was closed for the night and empty at the time. One apartment is occupied by Mineral City General Manager Brian Ruge.

Ruge directed all questions to restaurant owners Joe Cain and Jim Bird of Fort Dodge. Cain and Bird own the Sports Page Grill and Bar locations in Fort Dodge and Spencer. They also have a Mineral City restaurant in Fort Dodge. Bird said his phone rang at 2:30 a.m. Ruge told him about the extent of the damage.

"We're just so happy that Brian was able to get out of the building," Cain said.

Burnt rubble surrounds stonework at Mineral City Mill and Grill in Arnolds Park. The restaurant caught fire early Monday morning. The business is considered a total loss. (Photo by Russ Mitchell)

Yungbluth said the fire took about 90 minutes to be declared under control. An excavator was called in to take down some of the walls and give firefighters access to some hot spots.

Fire crews continued to monitor the site until about 9:30 a.m. Monday morning. Law enforcement officers set up road blocks around the perimeter of the property and helped watch for flare-ups throughout the day Monday.

Yungbluth said he hoped to have a preliminary ruling on the nature of the fire in the early part of the week.

"Generally, with situations like this a lot of times, we won't ever find a true cause in the investigation," Yungbluth said. "Unfortunately, without certainty, we have to go with an 'undetermined' (cause). Right now, though, we're still in the investigation phase."

Bird and Cain both signaled interest in rebuilding the restaurant. The owners hope to meet with the staff once they get an assessment from insurance adjusters.

"We love doing business in the Lakes area and especially Arnolds Park," Cain said. "We have a meeting (Tuesday) morning with our insurance adjuster and insurance inspectors, so we will know more tomorrow. Right now, we're kind of limbo and -- to be honest with you -- we're in a little bit of shock. It's a difficult situation to go through. One thing we're extremely happy about is that no one was hurt."

Cain later added, "We have to put some plans together, put some costs together and find out where we're at."

Mineral City Mill and Grill employed 40 to 45 full and part-time workers. Cain said Mineral City is covered by business interruption insurance. As a result, some staff members may remain on the payroll during a potential rebuilding process.

"I feel really bad for the staff," Bird said. "They wait all year for the season to make some extra money and now they are out of a job. That's kind of tough."

About 40-45 firefighters were at the scene. Police Departments from Arnolds Park, Okoboji and Milford responded along with Dickinson County deputies. Dickinson County Emergency Management provided assistance as well.

"They did all they could to try to save it -- I know that," Bird said.

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