By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A $69 million apartment and hotel under construction in downtown St. Paul went up in flames early Tuesday morning. The site sits across the street from Xcel Center near West 7th Street.

The glow from the fire burning inside the construction site near West 7th Street and Kellogg Blvd. could be seen for miles. By the time crews arrived around 4:20 Tuesday morning, the fire had a huge head start.

Chief Butch Inks from St. Paul Fire said he “saw some fire, some internal fire that quickly, quickly spread to become a fire we couldn’t make entry in.”

Firefighters attacked the flames from the outside.

Inside the Dorothy Day Home across the street, on the fifth floor, Mitch Ruele woke to the smell of smoke.

“Walked over to the end of the hallway, and oh man, what a sight to see. The whole thing was engulfed in a ball of fire going up as high as 10, 11 stories high,” he said.

The heat coming off the construction site was enough to melt traffic lights. It could be felt for blocks.

“Right there in the hallway is all glass, we could feel the heat coming from the fire over there. It was very massive,” said Ruele.

Part of the structure collapsed, sending fire crews into a defensive mode.

“As it burns, the flying debris has the potential of starting other structures on fire, so getting here and getting water on it as quickly as we did I think prevented a lot of fires happening down the street,” said Inks.

Firefighters stood on top of buildings, making sure the flying embers did not ignite another fire. By daybreak, the fire was under control.

“There is a number of hot spots throughout the building and as the debris falls in, it buries the hotspots so it takes a while for them to surface and as they surface, we put water on there,” said Inks.

The site was intended to be 144 plush rental units, with views of the capitol buildings and the Cathedral. On the other side, a Courtyard by Marriott hotel with a 40,000 square-foot pedestrian plaza was under construction.

WCCO has reached out to the developer of the project, Kaeding Development group, but have yet to hear back.

An investigator with the ATF is helping St. Paul Fire and the State Fire Marshall in the investigation.

 

Reg Chapman

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