ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Neighbors helped rescue a family from a fire at a St. Paul duplex early Thursday morning.
Firefighters were called to the 1000 block of Marion Street just before 5 a.m.
St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said a woman living in the lower level of the duplex heard a pop and went outside to investigate because her daughter’s family was living in the upper level.
She went out and saw huge fire on the outside staircase — the only entrance and exit to the upstairs unit.
Neighbors heard the woman outside screaming for the family upstairs, so they came out to help wake up the four people — a 28-year-old woman, her boyfriend, and her two kids, ages 4 and 7.
Neighbors said they threw rocks at the windows and yelled until the family awoke. Then they ran and pulled a mattress out of their home so the woman could throw her kids out the window. Neighbors caught the kids, but the mattress was used as a precaution.
Meanwhile, firefighters arrived and were able to get a ladder to rescue the man and woman still inside. The woman slipped on the ladder and hurt her ankle while evacuating. The man was ill, but it is not clear if it was from the fire or another medical condition. Both were brought to the hospital to be checked out and are OK. The children are also doing fine, according to Zaccard.
The only other injury was a firefighter at the scene who slipped off the roof. He had minor injuries that were checked out at the hospital, too.
Zaccard believes it is an arson fire, but they don’t know yet if the family was targeted or if it was random.
“When someone intentionally sets fire to an occupied residence like this, blocking their escape, they’re trying to kill someone,” said Zaccard. “Arson is not just a crime against property, it’s most certainly a crime against innocent people, too.”
The fire was extinguished in about 20 minutes.
Zaccard said there were smoke detectors in the home that were working.
The home had a lot of smoke and water damage, estimated at $120,000.
Zaccard said the Red Cross is helping the family replace belonging and find a place to live. They much lost everything in the fire, he said.
They will stay with other relatives in the meantime.