Candles cause large fire that consumes 8 condos in Uptown

  • Article by: MAYA RAO and PAUL WALSH
  • Star Tribune staff writers
  • December 29, 2012 - 12:28 AM

Unattended candles caused a massive blaze that destroyed a century-old apartment building in the heart of Minneapolis' Uptown neighborhood Friday morning, leaving nearly two dozen people homeless.

The fire in the three-story, eight-unit condominium with four distinctive columns, which is near the intersection of Lake Street and Humboldt Avenue S., broke out in a first-floor unit at 8:10 a.m. and snarled Uptown traffic for hours. Mammoth clouds of smoke still were billowing from the structure as the fire burned late into the morning.

One person was taken to a hospital for smoke inhalation, said Minneapolis Fire Marshal Perry Ebner.

Sandra Golob, 70, who lived in a first-floor unit, was in satisfactory condition at Hennepin County Medical Center, said a hospital spokeswoman.

Firefighters unleashed streams of water around the stucco-exterior building in an effort to keep flames from reaching neighboring structures, Ebner said.

When crews arrived, flames were shooting from the first and second floors. Firefighters went inside, but had to evacuate as the flames spread.

At least seven fire trucks and more than three dozen firefighters were on the scene, where dozens of bystanders gathered to watch from the Lunds grocery parking lot.

The neighboring Dunn Bros coffee and Bruegger's bagel shops were evacuated as a precaution, and Lake Street was blocked in both directions.

First-floor resident Andrea Johnson said she heard the smoke alarms "right away."

"I grabbed my dog and kitty," Johnson said. But once outside, her cat ran back inside and "I couldn't grab him in time."

Fighting back sobs, Johnson said of Baby Boy, "I'm just so sad I lost him." She said she also lost her car, parked in back.

Johnson, 47, lived there for 10 years and said, "I loved it so much. It had beautiful woodwork inside."

Ben Garber, 32, who moved into the building about a month ago, said, "I didn't have much time. It went fast." He said he knocked on his roommate's door and warned him, "I think this is the real thing."

Red Cross spokesman Lynette Nyman said the agency is assisting four people from two units. Several residents were not home at the time, including a father who is in Florida with three daughters, so the number of people displaced has not been finalized. She estimated it to be at least 20.

Because of the threat of collapse, the remains were demolished by day's end.

Staff writer Abby Simons contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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