3 slightly hurt in Plymouth apartment fire

  • Article by: MARIA ELENA BACA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 31, 2011 - 10:39 PM

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Scores of people were evacuated during an intense multiple-alarm fire at a Plymouth apartment complex that firefighters from 10 communities battled over several hours Monday night.

One firefighter and two residents were treated at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale for minor injuries suffered in the fire -- at least the third in the past four years -- at the 200-unit Plymouth Oaks Apartments, authorities said. The building is located at 3301 Highway 169, north of Medicine Lake Road.

Because the fire broke out at a time when building managers were in their office, residents' records were readily available, and firefighters and managers were quickly able to account for everyone in the 24 affected apartments, according to Plymouth Assistant Fire Chief Kip Springer. Building managers helped the displaced residents find shelter, Springer said.

The blaze, reported just before 5 p.m., slowed rush-hour traffic on Highway 169 to a near-standstill as gawkers braked to view the smoke and flames.

It was too early to determine the fire's cause, Springer said. An investigation is underway. The building had working alarms but no sprinklers, but is not required to have sprinklers, he said.

As late as 9 p.m., firefighters on extended ladders continued to pour water into hot spots on the blackened skeletal roof line in the middle section of the southwest wing of the L-shaped building, where the fire was concentrated. In the unaffected part of the building, people remained in their apartments, and late in the evening, television and lamp lights could be seen through their windows.

About 50 firefighters from 10 surrounding communities, including those as far away as Hamel, Excelsior and Rogers, helped fight the fire, Springer said. Firefighters had to dig one hydrant out of a snow pile, but that did not slow the firefighting efforts, he said.

Several cats and dogs were rescued from the affected apartments and provided with shelter by the city's animal control department, Springer said.

The owners of the complex, which was built in 1971, also own another apartment site to the north of the burned building, according to Hennepin County property records. Plymouth Oaks apartments, which welcome pets, range from $575 a month for a studio efficiency to $995 for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the complex's website.

It's not the first time the sprawling complex, which has a swimming pool, playground and volleyball court, has been hit by fire.

In February 2008, one person suffered minor injuries in a blaze blamed on a tenant who fell asleep with a unextinguished cigarette. Thirty units were damaged in that fire, which was brought under control in less than an hour, and five families -- 20 people -- were displaced.

In July 2007, a fire blamed on an electrical problem led to the evacuation of 100 units in the building and caused $4 million in damage.

Springer said that in the interim, firefighters have not been called to the building for fires or false alarms any more than to similar buildings in the area.

Staff writer Pamela Miller contributed to this report. Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409

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