AUSTIN, Minn. (KTTC) -- The Mower County Fair Grandstand was set ablaze and burned to the ground on Saturday morning in a carefully controlled demolition by the Austin Fire Department.
The debate about what to do with the rickety grandstand had gone on for months, with authorities settling on a controlled-burn as the best option. A few weeks ago, Saturday morning had been set as the date for the big blaze.
"It's cost effective, we're trying to save money and this is the best way possible," said Neal Anderson, President of the Mower County Fair.
The morning began at 8 a.m. as an elaborate firefighter training exercise, both for men from surrounding fire departments and as a test of new equipment. Firefighters from Adams, Le Roy, Grand Meadow and others from Mower and Freeborn County joined their brethren from Austin in setting and monitoring the huge fire. It was lit inside at precisely 10:30 and within minutes the entire wooden structure was engulfed.
"When they first started it, just seeing the smoke, I thought...'wow, it's actually happening,'" said 10-year-old Kaiden Finley.
More than 70 firefighters attended to the blaze. Paramedics and Austin Police were also on the scene.
"We worked a good plan, the plan worked," said Terry Petersen, Austin Fire Department Commander. "[It] went up a little bit faster than we were anticipating, but it landed where we wanted it to-I think everything was good."
One major concern was that the fire wouldn't spread to nearby fair buildings like the Beer Garden and the Mower County Historical Society, but the fire was contained and there was no collateral damage. The County Board is discussing plans to have a new structure in place in time for this year's fair.
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