A fire burned underneath the grandstand at the Dartt's Park baseball diamond in Owatonna Monday night. A storage shed below the third base seating area burned. Fast action by the Owatonna Fire Department seemed to save the structure from further damage, though seating was damaged by the heat of the blaze.

Owatonna High School baseball coach Tate Cummins said in a Facebook post, "Big bummer on the opening day of spring ball. Thankful for our firefighters quick response and a few very smart community members calling 911 quickly. They saved the park without a doubt."

In a phone call Monday night, Cummins told me that someone driving by the facility noticed a flash, thought it might be a fire, turned around and drove by again and then called 911. Cummins said firefighters were conducting a routine training session, leading to a quick response time. A city employee confirmed that Tuesday at the site.

He added that the firefighters had quick access to a newer truck that carries foam and a large capacity of water, eliminating the need to use a fire hydrant.

Cummins said the storage shed below the third base bleachers burned and the heat melted plastic in that part of the bleachers. In the Facebook post, he stated, "Hoping that the majority can be salvaged after inspections. Time will tell."

He also wrote, "Was there yesterday and grabbed a few pieces of equipment and wishing I would have grabbed more." He indicated that no electrical lines run in the storage shed.

See video of the fire from a Facebook post on Monday:

In getting a close-up at the facility Tuesday afternoon, the smell of burnt plastic was still heavy in the air. The storage shed looked to be a total loss. The tin roof of the shed was still in place. Flames apparently escaped through the door and windows roasting the bleacher seats above. Pictures show areas that were melted from the heat, but the structure itself looks solid, at least to the uneducated eye (mine).

Looking at the grandstand from the front (photo included) it is difficult to tell how much has melted or burned away. The press box and most of the grandstand appear totally untouched. Dugouts were undamaged. The concession stand and bathrooms at Dartt's Park are not attached to the grandstand and were in no way harmed Monday night.

A photo at the end of the gallery is from the barnstorming tour a few years ago when the St. Paul Saints played an Owatonna-area all-star team at Dartt's.

Monday was the first day of official high school baseball practice. The Huskies are scheduled to play their first home game on Tuesday, April 7.

Just a few years ago, the grandstand at Tink Larson Field in Waseca was totally destroyed by fire. The facility has since been rebuilt.




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