City says squatters occupied abandoned building that caught fire in Albert Lea |

City says squatters occupied abandoned building that caught fire in Albert Lea

Brett Bachtle
Created: December 04, 2020 07:39 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Squatters could be to blame for a large fire that destroyed an abandoned building in Albert Lea.

The blaze broke out at a forgotten warehouse near the center of the city.

“It’s a cold storage for Merrick of Minnesota. They are a company that used to do food manufacturing, pet food manufacturing in town here. They are no longer in town anymore, but it was still one of their old facilities that has some old residual products, items, machinery – things like that that were on site in the facility,” said Albert Lea Fire Department Deputy Director of Fire Jeff Laskowske.

Those who live near the site say they don’t know much about the abandoned building next door, but they’ve seen some strange people hanging out there.

“I know that the building was being used. People were living there,” said Albert Lea resident Dan Flint. “We’ve seen people like kind of drive bikes kind of go in and out.”

The city was also aware of squatters at the facility.

“We have been having some issues most recently with some people breaking into the property and squatting in the property and stuff like that that we’ve been trying to work with to get out of there,” Laskowske said.

Laskowske says the city has been working with the property owners for years to try to find a solution for the facility, but no new buyers were interested in the building because of its condition.

The fire remains under investigation.

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