MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Fire crews are looking into what caused a huge fire in Minneapolis overnight.
Around 2:25 a.m. Sunday morning, Minneapolis firefighters responded to a call regarding wires down and a possible car fire. Upon arrival, they discovered that a power line was down, which was arcing and sparking in the middle of the street at 707 8th Ave. SE.
The flames spread to a nearby vehicle and the home closest to the incident was evacuated as a precautionary measure.
“We kept coming out to check on it, and eventually, his was engulfed. It’s totaled, it just sucks,” said Maggie Anderson, whose friend’s car was burned.
Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy were requested on scene, after it was discovered that natural gas from under the street had also ignited, which made it difficult for fire crews to safely extinguish the car fire.
“We had a high-voltage power line laying on top of the cars and it was alive,” said Battalion Fire Chief Kathleen Mullen. “We believe it arched into the gas line into the street and melted them and started them on fire, so we had a fire under the street into the pavement.”
The fire spread to two other vehicles and a tree while firefighters went door-to-door to alert residents of the situation.
“You could hear it from inside, and we’re like, what the heck? It sounded crazy, you could hear windows bursting and tires bursting,” said Anderson.
Crews began monitoring the area for potential gas leaks and found high levels of gas in the soil near the street. The black top in the area began to buckle due to the fire and at 3:30 a.m., a CenterPoint Energy digging crew began shutting off the gas in the area.
The vehicles on fire were left to burn because, according to officials, extinguishing ignited gas before it’s been shut off could cause it to spread and pose a danger to others in the area.
“Our crews extinguished the bulk of the fires and we always leave gas fires burning, because the danger of course is explosions from vapors,” she said.
At least one family had to be evacuated in the incident. Shortly before 6 a.m., a Metro Transit bus was requested to standby in case a larger evacuation was needed. All gas lines into the area were shut off just before 8 a.m.
At that time, the burning vehicles and asphalt were extinguished and tow trucks were allowed to enter the area.
Mullen said it was a very dangerous situation, which they kept a close eye on overnight.
“Our hazmat crew is here,” she said. “They’ve been monitoring all night long the surrounding buildings, making sure the gas levels aren’t rising in any of these buildings.”
One home remains evacuated while crews work to ensure the safety of the neighborhood.
“The gas company is in the process of digging up the street, shutting down these gas mains,” Mullen said. “We still have one evacuated home over here.”
Fire investigators don’t know what caused the fire but say callers had reported a loud bang in the area before the crews were dispatched. A transformer located a block away had blown. They say it’s unclear whether winds, lightning or rain caused the transformer to blow.
There were no firefighter or civilian injuries. The incident remains under investigation.