GALLERY: Fire At Elk River Apartments
ELK RIVER, Minn. (WCCO) — Fire crews responded to a large apartment fire that evacuated a complex in Elk River on Thursday morning.
According to the Elk River Police and Fire Departments, the blaze happened at the Evans Meadows apartment building on the 300 block of Evans Avenue.
The flames quickly spread thanks to high winds.
Around 6:20 a.m., Joe Haugen smelled the hint of smoke and knew something wasn’t right.
“Decided to throw on my jacket and boots and run outside, saw smoke, and at that point decided to run inside and see who was awake,” he said.
His cell phone images captured the raging inferno — driven by fierce winds.
Before firefighters arrived, Haugen went back inside to alert the residents in the 15 other units.
“I just ran down the hall shouting, ‘Fire! Fire!’ banging on doors and making as much noise as I could,” he said.
The building was evacuated safely. Everyone living in the apartment building was accounted for and safe.
“I got my family and friends offered to let me stay, get me out of the cold,” said another resident.
Investigators say it appears the fire started in the rear of the building. But the flames moved fast to the rest of the complex, causing some of the parts of the building to collapse.
The flames and smoke was so bad that firefighters had to retreat, fighting the fire from outside the building.
It was not immediately clear how the fire had started, or how many units overall were affected. For now, they say it was accidental — it’s not being called suspicious.
More than 10 fire departments responded to the fire. The Elk Rive Fire Chief said Thursday’s weather made their job much harder.
“We’re about 7 degrees outside right now and that certainly provides some extremes for our firefighters and personnel. Our hose lines we need to always keep water flowing, make sure nothing freezes up,” he said. “But also this morning there was some significant wind that helped fueled the flames outside the building.”
Police got residents to safety at a nearby church and senior center.
The American Red Cross said they have responded to the scene and are assisting those displaced by the fire to find shelter.
The smoke detectors did sound and alerted residents, obviously many were up already getting ready for work or school.
As for sprinklers, this building was built prior to 1989 and with just 16 units, making it exempt from the sprinkler requirement.