Columbia Heights fire leaves man, 2 animals dead
Columbia Heights fire officials say a man, dog and pig are dead after a fire during the overnight hours early Thursday morning.
According to fire officials, crews were called to a home on the 4500 block of 7th Street Northeast around 1 a.m. Thursday. Firefighters called in a second alarm so additional crews could respond and extinguish the flames, which were shooting out of a top-floor window near the roof.
Additional flames also were seen over much of the roof on the other side of the house.
Firefighters tried to break through the front door, but ended up having to smash the glass of a window located in the front of the home in order to get inside.
Minutes after two firefighters used a ladder to get inside, they carried a man through the front door, and put him in an ambulance.
Chief Charlie Thompson says the homeowner succumbed to injuries he suffered during the fire.
Family members have identified the victim as Brian Drews, known as “Beany.”
Bouquets of followers were left on the steps of the home’s remnants to honor Brian’s life.
“He’d always listen. He’d always have a joke for you. He would always have a smile for you,” Connor Drews, his son, said.
When Conner took a trip to Boston, he had no idea he saw his dad smile for the last time.
“It’s very tough to put into words,” Conner said. “All I have is my backpack. When I come home from Boston, I’m coming home to essentially nothing.”
Conner’s pet dog and pig were also found dead inside the home.
“I made a random choice of adopting a dog and a random choice of adopting a pig and he let me be who I was,” Conner said. “I’m a goofball just like him.”
His father’s laugh would echo through his favorite restaurant Tasty Pizza, but today was different.
“It’s very quiet. Usually, he [Brian] would come in and help set up the bar in the morning and give us useless knowledge, which cracks us up. He cheers us up a lot in the morning,” Kelley “Uncle Kels” Berwald, Tasty Pizza bartender, said. “It’s going to be hard.”
Friends describe the army veteran as a neighborhood favorite who helps anyone who needs it.
“He loves his trivia, music, Vikings games and just hanging out with everybody,” Berwald said.
Brian’s favorite chair in the restaurant is now empty like the void in the hearts of his friends and family.
“When days were tough he had a way of getting a laugh out of you,” Connor said. “For instance, like this moment, I wish I could just hear a joke right now.”
A GoFundMe for the Drews family is raising money to support Connor. The fundraiser can be found HERE.
After Thursday’s fire, Thompson is emphasizing the importance of smoke detectors.
“The biggest push we give to people is check your smoke detectors. The batteries are relatively inexpensive compared to life,” Thompson said.
The State Fire Marshalls office as well as Anoka County authorities are assisting crews in determining the cause of the fire.