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Lightning strikes tower at former Regional Treatment Center in Fergus Falls, sets building on fire

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. - Lightning struck a tower at the former Regional Treatment Center here Tuesday night, setting the building on fire, according to Fergus Falls Fire Chief Mark Hovland.

The Fire Department was called about 6:30 p.m. and the tower had flames showing when units arrived, Hovland said.

The fire was in the historic Kirkbride building, the centerpiece of the campus that formerly was the Fergus Falls State Hospital.

Hovland said firefighters attempted to use a ladder truck to fight the blaze, but the ladder rose only 100 feet and the fire was at the peak of the tower, about 130 feet above the ground.

Firefighters hauled hoses up several spiral staircases and the fire was eventually extinguished from inside the building, Hovland said, adding that about the top 4 or 6 feet of the tower will need to be replaced.

He said a firefighter was struck in the shoulder by a falling object, possibly a roof tile, but there were no serious injuries.

A group of developers is working to acquire the property from the city and turn it into a Chinese language and business institute.

The Fergus Falls Daily Journal reported that at a meeting this week, members of the Campus Development Group said they would like until next summer to acquire the Kirkbride building.

The City Council is expected to act on the request on June 29.