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Friday, March 9, 2012

Large Fire Damages Apartment Building in Minneapolis

A massive fire gutted a south Minneapolis apartment building early Friday, obliterating the roof of the three-story 32-unit brick structure and forcing dozens of residents from their apartments.

No serious injuries were reported, though one resident called 911 reporting being trapped in a bathroom. Firefighters found and rescued the person, Assistant Fire Chief Cherie Penn said.

Resident Jenifer Berndt said she awoke at 2 a.m. to the sound of blaring alarms in her ground-level apartment but wasn't sure at first if the danger was real. It wasn't until she heard an exterior door slamming shut over and over as people evacuated that she and her daughter left the building, then raced back in to save their cats Bacchus and Dumpins.

"There was smoke coming out of the ceiling," said Leah Berndt, Jenifer's daughter. "There was smoke down the hallway. It was big. It was black."

Reported at 2:06 a.m., the fire at the St. George Apartments at 137 E. 17th St. started in the basement, eventually growing to three alarms, according to Penn. The cause is not yet determined.

As the morning rush hour got underway, smoke drifted down onto Interstate 94. The building in the Stevens Square neighborhood overlooks the freeway and sits just across it from Minneapolis Fire Station #6.

"The fire spread horizontally and vertically -- the first, second and third floors, and then through the roof," Penn said. "The damage extends the entire length of the building. I certainly don't foresee anyone getting back in any time soon."

As about 45 firefighters fought the blaze. They later confirmed that all residents made it out safely. One fire fighter suffered a minor injury, but remained on the scene.

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