(Alexandria, MN) It's a fire that has left many stunned.  Four buildings have been destroyed by a fire that broke out in the early morning hours of Tuesday, February 25th in downtown Alexandria.  There are several businesses within those buildings.  Crews arrived shortly after 4:34am and began fighting smoke and flames at Raapers Eatery and Ale.  Approximately 120 firefighters have been coming in to assist with the efforts.  The buildings that contain RM Tattoo, Hidden Treasures, Raapers Eatery and Ale, Charlie's Bazaar and Little Darlings Children's Boutique look to have received excessive damage due to all of the fire, smoke and water.  Crews are in the process of demolishing several of the historic buildings during midday. 

With more from the start of the fire through sunset, here's a video story from VOA's Joe Korkowski.  

Firefighters used a drone with thermal imaging for the first time, according to city spokeswoman Sarah Stadtherr. The Star Tribune says it allowed them to locate hot spots and more effectively use their hoses.

Charlette Vernlund, who owns Charlie's Bazaar, said she'll be meeting with her insurance agent this week to determine how to proceed.

Pam Botker is co-owner of Creative Touch and president of the city’s Downtown Merchants Association. She said her business and others not directly affected by the fire have significant smoke damage.

“We have to gut our store and rebuild,” Botker said. “We’ll all help each other out. We’ve been talking and whatever we have to do to rebuild, we’ll do that.”

People have been extremely helpful in attending to the needs of the victims of the fire.  Authorities says approximately 20 men and women who lived above the business are displaced.  All of those residents were evacuated early this morning and have been accounted for.  Red Cross is assisting them with housing, food, and clothing.  Alexandria Transitional Housing Alliance was helpful in filling in any gaps left in aiding the victims immediate needs.  Other businesses have also been attentive to the needs of those working to fight the fire.  Sandwiches from Travelers Restaurant were being handed out to them.  Patrick Sieve says other places like Elden's, Roer's Bakery, Bell Bank and more were also helping feed first responders.  Douglas County Emergency management Director Julie Anderson says there will be plenty of opportunity to help, but to please be patient.

Quincy Roers was working at Roers Bakery, across 5th Avenue from the fire early this morning.  He describes what he saw.

Firefighters from Alexandria, Carlos, Forada, Garfield, Osakis and Long Prairie, along with first responders are helping to contain the fire.  Smoke could be seen for miles as a light North breeze blew the odor from the smoke down Broadway Street.

There are many wonderful efforts aimed at helping the victims, both those living in the apartments, and business owners. After this morning's fire at Raapers Eatery, fans of the pub have put together a GoFundMe to help the owners rebuild. Several hundred of the $2,500 goal has already been raised. To view the GoFundMe, click here.

Senator Torrey Westrom responded to the news.  “The news of the tragic downtown fire in Alexandria spread throughout the Capitol today and was on many of our minds. Thanks to the tireless efforts of our firefighters and first responders, no one was injured, and we’re all so thankful for that. A big thanks also to all the people, organizations, churches and others that have stepped to help out a friend or neighbor! No doubt the fire has caused a great loss for the small businesses, tenants, and so many in the city. It has impacted personal lives, families, and employment. In the spirit of selflessness, the community has once again rallied together, providing support for the firefighters, displaced citizens, and others affected. I’m proud to represent part of a city that has such resolve and kindheartedness in the face of a disaster like this. Please continue to keep everyone affected in your thoughts and prayers that their needs will be met in the days ahead!