MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An apartment complex just south of downtown Minneapolis is a total loss after a fire that reached at least three alarms overnight.
The fire broke out at a building on 17th Street East near 2nd Avenue South. The fire was called into authorities at about 2 a.m., was a two-alarm fire by 2:54 a.m. and grew to a three-alarm fire by shortly after 3 a.m., authorities said.
The fire began in a ground-floor corner, but spread quickly through all floors. Crews said the flames spread up and out.
The flames and smoke were so thick and lasted so long, they also slowed down traffic throughout the morning rush.
The St. George Apartments complex has 32 units, and was built in 1919. Because of the building’s age, crews said the fire was particularly stubborn, and they were still working on the fire throughout the morning. Each time they thought they had it under control, it would flare up again.
Everyone made it out safely and there were no injuries to any residents, but they lost nearly everything they owned. One firefighter suffered a minor injury, but was able to stay at the scene to continue battling the blaze.
Resident Cynthia Hampton said she thought it was a false alarm when the sound of smoke alarms rang through the building in the middle of the night. But the smell of something burning and engine sirens told otherwise.
“I heard crackling, but I had no idea it was fire,” said Hampton. “As I started hearing people run through, noises, and smoke alarms, I figured I better get up.”
Hampton used the light from her phone to help guide her out the door and down the hall.
“[The fire] seemed really small, but after I saw the flames coming through my window, I broke down and knew it’s gotten really bad.”
Hampton watched in shock as the flames tore through the roof, lighting up the downtown skyline.
“I lost everything, everything I absolutely owned in that fire, everything,” she said.
Like many others in the apartment building, Hampton doesn’t have renters insurance. She escaped with the clothes on her back and her purse.
She said she’s grateful everyone made it out safely, but is having a difficult time coping with what just happened.
“I just walk by faith. Hopefully God gives me the help and strength and lead the way for me, cause I have no idea.”
Hampton’s co-workers at Hennepin County are trying to see what they can do to help her out.
There are at least 30 other people who are now trying to find a place to stay and put their lives back together. Salvation Army and Red Cross are working to help them out.
Mattress Firm, which is taking over Mattress Giant stores in the metro area, is offering those affected by the fire new beds, according to The Salvation Army. Mattress Firm will also be collecting gently-used clothing, bedding and hygiene supplies at the company’s 15 locations starting Sunday. The drive will last a week.