DULUTH, Minn. (KBJR) — The Duluth Police and Fire Departments are working to secure the building and the area surrounding Adas Israel synagogue following an early Monday morning fire.
According to Duluth Fire Chief Sean Krizaj, the building is very unstable due to a number of collapses, including part of the roof, as well as the front and west walls.
The building which houses Adas Israel has been a fixture in the community for more than 100 years.
Monday afternoon, several community leaders, as well as congregation members, came together for a news conference, saying they will support the religious community.
One of the bright spots during the somber day included the salvaging of historical documentation, as well as eight Torahs, which are the Holy books of Judaism.
The investigation, which officials say is still in its early stages, involves two fire investigators from the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearm division in the Twin Cities.
According to Police Chief Mike Tusken, when a place of worship is struck by a fire, it isn’t out of the ordinary to involve the ATF.
In addition, Tusken said when officers arrived on scene Monday morning, Tusken said a couple of people of interest have been interviewed, however investigations are still being done.
As of Monday afternoon, officials did not comment on if they believe the fire was arson.
Krizaj says during their preliminary investigation, they have not found any sign of accelerants being used, however further investigation will need to be done after the building is stabilized.
Currently, an emergency fund created by the Minneapolis and St. Paul Jewish Federations has been created to help with costs.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) issued the following statement regarding the fire:
“The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) is deeply saddened by the devastating fire that appears to have destroyed much of the historic Adas Israel Congregation in downtown Duluth, MN. The Congregation dates back to the late 1800s and the building’s cornerstone was laid in 1901. We are in close communication with the leadership of Adas Israel Congregation and law enforcement in the Duluth area. The investigation into this incident is ongoing. Most importantly, we have learned that there are no fatalities connected to the fire at Adas Israel Congregation. As of 9:00 a.m., firefighters were still on scene. The Duluth Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the ’cause and origin of the fire.’ We thank the Duluth Fire Department and the Duluth Police Department for their swift response to this terrible incident. Our thoughts are with the courageous firefighter who was injured by falling debris while responding to the fire.”
The JCRC also says Duluth’s Temple Israel has opened its doors to members of Adas Israel as a temporary prayer and gathering space.