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Thorwood R&R fire under investigation

Michelle Wirth / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
It took firefighters more than six hours to get the fire under control at Thorwood Rentals and Retreats on Dec. 14. Pictured is what the damage from the fire looks like just days after the fire. Michelle Wirth / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Photo by Rick Hardy3 / 3

The cause of the fire at Thorwood Rentals and Retreats is still undetermined. The Hastings Fire Department requested the state fire marshal to assist in the investigation.

Bruce McLaughlin, investigator with the state fire marshal, said the fire department contacted them for assistance due to the historical nature of the building and the significant loss due to damages.

John Townsend, assistant fire and EMS director, said the state has assisted in other fires in the past.

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"We tend to use them or have them assist when we have some larger (fires)," Townsend said.

The building, located at 315 Pine St., caught fire Dec. 14 in the early morning. It is owned by Dick and Pam Thorsen. Pam said all occupants including herself, Dick, their daughter Brittany and two dogs safely evacuated the morning of the fire.

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The Thorsens purchased the building about 40 years ago to raise their family and start a business. She said the history of the town and the building embraced them.

Pam said the family has been grateful to local friendships and family members who have sustained them the past few days.

"We have loved serving our guests over the past 30-some years," Pam said. "Although we cannot see the future, we do love Hastings and its history and always will."

Officials said the fire call came in at 5:30 a.m. First responders found about one-third of the roof already burnt and flames were visible across a large area of the structure.

The Cottage Grove, Miesville, Prescott and Rosemount fire departments assisted in putting out the fire.

The majority of the fire was under control by noon, but firefighters continued to battle hot spots and flare-ups into the evening. A small crew of firefighters stayed on scene overnight to monitor the building.

The Thorsens told firefighters that there was a floor replacement taking place on the third floor.

Fire and EMS Director Mike Schutt said firefighters were called to the address earlier in the morning around 2:30 a.m. for an activated alarm. A boiler unit in the building had malfunctioned and a small fire had ignited on the wall covering around the boiler unit. The homeowner extinguished the fire prior to the fire department's arrival and fire crews confirmed the fire was extinguished with a thermal imaging camera.

The structure is an 1880 National Register French Second Empire mansion. It is located on the corner of Pine and Fourth streets about five blocks up the hill from historic downtown Hastings.

The building has operated under several different hats since it was built. It was first a home, then a hospital, a six-plex, a bed and breakfast inn, and now three condos used for Thorwood Rentals and Retreats.

According to Thorwood's website, the building was renovated into three vacation rental condos. The formal part of the home with the original parlors, kitchen space and three second-floor bedrooms made up one condo. The servants' quarters was made into another condo. The 1,700-square-foot third-floor space made up the third condo with deep window sills and a French mansard roof.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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