MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minneapolis Fire Department officials are investigating an early morning fire Sunday they said was difficult to battle.

The call for help came in just before 3:20 a.m. to a home in the 3400 block of Chicago Avenue South. When firefighters arrived, they found flames coming from the rear porch of the two-and-a-half story home. At first, it seemed everyone survived.  It wasn’t until later that firefighters realized someone was dead inside the home.

Firefighters said the wind made battling the blaze at the home on Chicago Avenue Sunday morning very difficult. The battalion chief, Michael Carswell, said three families were living in the home. The damage was severe. A 24-year-old man lost his life. Friends identified him as Diego Fernando Rivera from Honduras.

Firefighters don’t know exactly how it started, but they think it started in the back of the house. The home suffered extensive damage, but that was not the greatest loss.

Gilberto Salazar and his family spent Sunday morning huddled inside a van.  Salazar said he awoke to screams in the night as the home, where three families lives ripped into flames. He said he heard these words, “I need help, I need help, encendio, encendio.”

“The fire was spreading really fast so it was really hot and it was hard to get close to,” Carswell said.

He said the wind was driving the flames as they spread to the home next door. Firefighters contained them and for a while. It seemed everyone got out.

“We did primary searches they were all clear. We did secondary searches, they were all clear. We still had a report of one person missing so we went back in the building again and again and we ended up finding an individual,” Carswell said.

Ricardo Alvarado and his father tell us that individual was 24-year-old Diego Fernando Rivera. Ricardo said the two had dinner together just hours before the fire erupted.

Ricardo said Diego, who was from Honduras, was a true friend who believed in respect and did not talk badly about others.

The eight who survived are getting help from the Red Cross, Salazar said.

“They help you for food, more clothes, they help you for a little bit of money,” Salazar said.

After that, he said he’ll have to figure out how to put together what the fire ripped through.

Fire spread from the garage to the first and second stories, there was even a partial structure collapse, but no firefighters were hurt. Salazar said one resident did have to go to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. This is the third fire fatality in Minneapolis in 2015.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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