Firefighters put out fire at vacant Minneapolis apartment building

Eight to 10 people were seen running from the building when firefighters arrived, fire officials said. It was one of several fires reported recently at the address.

MINNEAPOLIS — Firefighters in Minneapolis put out a fire at a boarded-up apartment building near Lorraine Park early in the morning, one of multiple fires reported at the address over the past month .

A release from Assistant Fire Chief Melanie Rucker said the engine arrived at the 4-story building at the 200 block of Oak Grove shortly before 5 a.m. when it encountered flames from a third-story window, and 8 To 10 people escape from the building.

Following multiple reports of previous fires, crews laid waterlines for an external attack amid concerns that the building’s interior was weak. Once most of the fire was out, the planks were cut with windows and doors for a safe insider attack.

Firefighters at the scene removed extension cords, sheets and trash cords tied to window frames in vacant apartment buildings that squatters used to climb upstairs, break windows and gain access to the building, Rucker said.

The assistant commissioner added that Minneapolis police were called to the scene as several squatters tried to get back inside the fire-damaged building. Police and firefighters remained at the scene until new planks could be placed on the doors and windows.

Investigators will try to determine the exact cause.

“Unfortunately, these structures (boards) attract squatters and illegal activities such as drug use, vandalism and prostitution,” Rucker responded to KARE’s inquiry. “Abandoned and vacant buildings can be extremely dangerous to firefighters because they lack structural integrity and may contain other hazards. Unsecured vacant or abandoned buildings are inherently more dangerous than occupied buildings. Keeping unauthorized occupants away from vacant and abandoned buildings is key to preventing fires.”

“The fire department does everything in its power to monitor and protect abandoned buildings in their response area,” added Rucker. “The building (in Lorraine Park) has been boarded up, but unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped unauthorized Squatters. Fortunately, neighbors quickly called 911 to report these fires and no one was hurt or injured.”

Monday’s fire is just the latest in a recent rash involving squatters and vacant buildings. On July 20, four buildings in the 2800 block of 14th Avenue South in the city’s Phillips neighborhood were damaged or destroyed in a fire that started inside a boarded-up home. Assistant Commissioner Rooker said at the time that it was the third fire involving a wood-paneled home this week, posing a challenge to a department understaffed by a recent retirement.

Later in the day, Minneapolis police moved in to clear a nearby homeless camp. City officials issued a statement saying the camp had been cleared due to ongoing security concerns, citing a fire that day and a 53 percent increase in crime in the community over the past month.

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