MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Two women have died in a house fire on 3616 S. Elliot St., according to fire officials.
Minneapolis Fire Chief Alex Jackson said around 1:36 a.m., the first responding crew got stuck in the snow, about a quarter of a block away from the scene of the fire. Jackson said it’s the worst possible weather conditions to fight a fire.
Though the first engine was stuck, a second fire engine arrived minutes later and a third was dispatched as a substitute for the stuck crew. The first engine had to be pulled out by tow truck.
Meanwhile, the house burned quickly and four people who made it out alive jumped to safety from the roof of the porch.
“I’m looking at the house and I can’t believe it,” said Arthur Kennedy, nephew of the victim.
Arthur Kennedy says he and his cousins basically grew up in the house that his aunt owned. He said Mary Francis Rowe passed away when fire swept through the house she lived in for decades. Relatives and friends were inside with her all scrambled for exits when flames invaded the two-story home.
When fire crews got equipment to the house, there was smoke coming out of the home from the second floor.
Firefighters said they knew they needed to do a search and rescue for the residents in the home, but the fire became so dangerous they were forced to approach it defensively.
Three people were rescued from the second floor porch and all three were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center.
Another person escaped the fire and was at a neighboring home. They were also taken to HCMC.
Neighbor Jay Reeves watched as Rowe’s son cried out for help.
“When he stood on that roof, he didn’t have no clothes on and he was hollering, asking somebody to get his mother. I just told him to jump because the fire started shooting out the window and all the smoke and everything and he just jumped,” Reeves said.
Fire crews were initially informed that there were possibly eight people living in the home. Firefighters attempted to find those who were unaccounted for, however were forced to evacuate after conditions became too dangerous.
In addition to Rowe, the body of the other woman was found later by fire officials. Officials are not sure if the two were on the first or second floor.
Family looking around on Sunday afternoon could not help but notice the condition of the street. Large snow drifts, cars parked on both sides, and imprints left behind from where the first fire engine got stuck.
“It totally hindered fire fighters. They weren’t able to be there to save my auntie and now we’re a family that’s grieving over someone that was the matriarch of our family,” said nephew Steve Wilson.
Firefighter John Schroeder was not at this particular fire but knows firsthand how hard it is to navigate a big rig down narrow, unplowed and cluttered side streets. Schroeder said everyone has to work together to clear the road so fire, EMS and police can get through to help those in need.
Minneapolis Fire Chief Alex Jackson extended his deepest condolences to the families of those involved. He said these are the worst possible conditions to fight a fire, and fire fighters did an excellent job in extremely dangerous conditions.
Crews were on scene until about 6 a.m. Sunday. No firefighters were injured in the fire and it is currently under investigation.
WCCO-TV’s Reg Chapman Reports