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Swenson Motors reopening after fire damages Willmar, Minn., dealership

A firefighter exits the building Monday at Swenson Motors in Willmar. A fire early Monday damaged the building and vehicles inside. A cost estimate had not yet been determined. The fire is not considered suspicious. (Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny)

WILLMAR -- The sales department at Swenson Motor Company in Willmar had reopened for business Monday afternoon after an early morning fire damaged the auto dealership along U.S. Highway 12 East in Willmar.

Swenson Sales Manager Pam Frost said Monday afternoon that the dealership's parts department would be back in operation today. She expected the service department to be down for a couple of days, but that they were working to get the department back into operation.

The company has about 35 employees, which include those at the body shop at a separate location.

The fire, reported to the Willmar Fire Department around 12:40 a.m. Monday, was not suspicious in origin, according to Willmar Fire Chief Marv Calvin.

"At this point, it doesn't appear to be a suspicious fire," Calvin said.

The initial investigation by the Fire Department and the State Fire Marshal is complete, Calvin said.

Officials are now continuing to work on other aspects of the investigation. The area of origin has been identified, but a damage estimate has not been finalized at this point.

Frost said several vehicles were in the showroom and several were in the shop when the fire broke out. The amount of damage to those vehicles was unknown, she said. Vehicles located on the outdoor parking lot were not damaged, she said.

The center of the building received fire damage and the remainder of the building received smoke and water damage, according to Frost.

The Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealership is open for regular business hours, which are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, she said, with employees working out of portable offices at the site. Frost also said crews were working on getting the businesses' main phone number, 320-235-3434, back into operation.

The local fire department received mutual aid from eight surrounding agencies as firefighters battled the blaze that extended into the roof area of the building.

Also assisting were Willmar Ambulance Service, Kandiyohi County Rescue Squad, Willmar Police Department and Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office.