Structure is sound, repairs to commence, fire chief says

    The fact that a Grand Forks television news photographer wasn't sure if he had the right place Monday when he showed up to shoot footage of the fire at the Irishman's Shanty is the best indication yet, Crookston Fire Chief Tim Froeber said Monday evening, that the outcome could have been much worse.   

    "We are very, very happy with the result," Froeber told the Times. "I mean, there were flames coming out of the roof when we arrived. The outcome could have been much, much worse."   

    The fire was reported shortly before 11 a.m. Monday. While the investigation into the cause continues, staff indicated that an aerosol can in the kitchen got too hot and exploded near a vent, sending a fireball into the vent and attic. Shanty owner Paul Gregg, four employees and one customer were able to safely escape without injury.   

    "It was like a ball of flames that just shot right out," longtime cook Daryl Vrem told the Times.    

    "Daryl was right in front of it. I yelled for Paul and we all got out of there," Manager Gail Hoffman added. "I haven't been that scared in a long time."       

    "It's definitely not how I imagined my Monday going, that's for sure," Gregg said.   

    The explosion triggered the building's fire suppression system, which quickly extinguished the flames in the kitchen. But the fire had already spread to the attic and moved above the ceiling toward the off-sale.   

    Firefighters arrived and, after assessing the scene, had to cut a hole around 16 feet by 16 feet in size to better get at the fire burning in the ceiling and the roof, Froeber said. In around 20 minutes the fire had been knocked down. While there is some smoke damage throughout, Froeber said water damage is relatively minimal. There is significant damage in the kitchen and burned ceiling joists, he said, but the bar, off-sale and restaurant areas of the longtime fixture on Crookston's south end are in pretty good shape.   

    "If you didn't know there was a fire there, you could drive by and not even know there was a fire," Froeber said. "The structure itself is in decent shape. You might even walk through the bar and restaurant and not know something happened."   

    Electricity and natural gas service was turned back on later Monday, and Froeber said a contractor patched the hole in the roof that firefighters had to cut to get at the fire.   

    Froeber said investigators would be on the scene Tuesday. Meanwhile, Gregg is working with his insurance agent on the next steps to take on repairs that lead toward a reopening.