The State Fire Marshall was in Owatonna Tuesday morning to begin an investigation into a fire underneath the grandstand at the Dartt's Park ball diamond. The fire destroyed a storage shed and damaged the bleacher seating above it. While the Fire Marshall's office cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, officials locally and from their office indicated that local authorities asked for their assistance in discovering what caused the fire.

The call went into the Owatonna Fire Department at 6:40 pm Monday that the bleachers were on fire at Dartt's Park. Initially reaction was, "How could the bleachers be on fire?" since they are made on metal. With a training session going on at the time, Fire Commander Todd Ulrich said all the personnel needed were already at the fire hall.

Ulrich said they took three trucks to the site. The storage utility shed was fulled engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. He said flames were rolling out of the door and windows. It took just three minutes to extinguish the blaze, but he said, "The heat caused extensive damage to the aluminum and steel structure." Plastic seating also melted in the third-base bleacher seating.

The storage shed was a wood structure covered in tin. The building was still standing after the fire with its walls and roof all still in place, but heavily blackened. Multiple sources have reported that no electrical ran through the shed, which was used to house baseball equipment for the high school team and Owatonna Aces amateur team, in addition to field maintenance equipment.

Ulrich says one of the trucks used Monday carries 1,000 gallons of water, eliminating the need to tap into a fire hydrant about 800 feet away. He says the vehicle uses a compress air foam system (CAFS) that extinguishes the fire quicker as the foam is able to penetrate into the fibers of the wood.

He didn't believe the damage to the bleachers would disrupt the start of the prep baseball season, but said the facility would have to be checked out. Ulrich said the state Fire Marshall office was on site to open an investigation Tuesday morning. They will work with the Owatonna Police Department and witnesses. The first was reportedly called in by several community members according to OHS baseball coach Tate Cummins. The Huskies are scheduled to host their first game of the season on Tuesday, April 7 at Dartt's Park.

Only a few years ago, a fire destroyed the wooden grandstand at Tink Larson Field in Waseca. That facility has since been rebuilt. Arson was believed to be the cause of the fire in Waseca.


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