UPDATE: Fire destroys two buildings, damages a third in Laurel - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Fire destroys two buildings, damages a third in Laurel, NE

Fire crews were called to the corner of Oak and Second streets just after 5:30 a.m. Thursday. Fire crews were called to the corner of Oak and Second streets just after 5:30 a.m. Thursday.

Fire destroyed two buildings, and damaged a third, in the town of Laurel, Nebraska. Fire crews received the call to come downtown around 5:30 a.m. Thursday.

The Deputy State Fire Marshal says the fire started in the two story building on the corner of Oak and Second streets. The building was once the Laurel State Bank, but now houses the offices of a renewable energy company, Laurel BioComposite.

Volunteer firefighters spent hours dousing the flames downtown.

"It was out of control when we got the call. It was probably our biggest (issue)," said Laurel fire chief Craig Bathke. "Then, tall old buildings. You can't get up there to do anything and it just got hot real quick." 

Built in the early 1900s, the first floor housed the offices of Laurel BioComposite.

"Doesn't look like there will be anything to salvage," said Tim Bearnes, CEO of Laurel BioComposite.

The second floor had been apartments, but no one was living there. The building next door is also gone.

"The heat got into another building that connects to it. So, now we've got two buildings that are a total loss," said Craig Bathke.

That building housed Thrivent Insurance, a satellite office with one employee. Company officials say many of their paper records were lost in the fire, but have an electronic back up.

A hardware store on the other side of the BioComposite building had smoke damage. The heat was so intense that a family living in a house on the same block was evacuated for fear the fire would continue to spread.

Despite the damage, the CEO of Laurel BioComposite remains positive.

"Everything's backed up and I'm sure they'll be some things I miss, but I think we're in good shape," said Bearnes.  

Bearnes says the building was a temporary office for him and another employee while construction continues on the company's new building in the town's industrial park.

The deputy Nebraska state fire marshal began searching the inside of the building late this morning. He says it'll take time to determine an exact fire cause because there's a lot of fire and smoke damage inside.

"Everything to me says, it's a possible accidental fire, but I need to get in there to determine more of an exact cause," said Jeff Going, Nebraska Deputy state fire marshal.

The owner of the property is in California, so Going says it could take time for them to get in contact.

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