24 displaced as north Minneapolis duplex fire erupts

Another fire at the units had just been put out. The landlord said just four adults were listed on the lease.

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LaDonna Harris sat on a bed at the Comfort Inn in Brooklyn Center after the Red Cross arranged for six rooms for her and 23 of her family members who were uprooted by a duplex fire early Tuesday. Harris said she moved into the duplex last month to get away from gunfire in a neighborhood farther north.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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A fire swept through a north Minneapolis duplex early Tuesday, displacing 12 adults and 12 children of a three-generation family.

It was the second blaze in two hours at 1611 Hillside Av. N., and while family members speculated that the two fires might be connected, fire officials would say only it was under investigation.

The Red Cross put up the family members in six rooms at the Comfort Inn in Brooklyn Center and provided them with funds to get clothes and food.

"We lost everything," said LaDonna Harris, 40, who said each unit of the duplex had four bedrooms. Nine of the 24 people at the home were staying only a few days, she said. Among those staying there were her adult children and grandchildren.

Harris moved into the duplex on Dec. 1, she said, to get away from gunfire in a Minneapolis neighborhood farther north.

Asked what the family was going to do next, she said, "I don't have a clue."

Ken Welch, chief financial manager of Assertive MPLS Properties, which owns the duplex, said he did not know whether the building could be repaired.

Asked about the units' crowded conditions, Welch said only four adults were listed on the lease.

Matthew Laible, a spokesman for the city of Minneapolis, said in an e-mail that the duplex was licensed for rental. It had one violation for an exterior nuisance in 2012, he said.

"While we're definitely looking into it, we aren't going to speculate right now about whether this property was overoccupied under the law," he wrote.

Family members said the first fire, a minor one, was caused when a teenager, angry at being criticized by an adult, threw an aerosol can that exploded on a basement floor. The family called 911 while residents poured water on the blaze and put it out.

Firefighters came to the duplex about 10:30 p.m. and left after thermal imaging found no fire, Assistant Minneapolis Fire Chief Cherie Penn said.

At 12:21 a.m., the family called 911 again when smoke billowed out of the basement and fire spread into the building's walls.

rfurst@startribune.com • 612-673-4224 david.chanen@startribune.com • 612-673-4465

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