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'Very tragic night': 5 dead, 3 hospitalized after Minneapolis high-rise apartment fire

Updated: November 28, 2019 09:14 PM

Five people died after a fire inside a high-rise apartment building in Minneapolis Wednesday morning.

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The people who died in the incident have been identified by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner as 32-year-old Tyler Baron, 59-year-old Jerome Stuart, 67-year-old Nadifa Mohamud, 69-year-old Maryan Mohamed Mohamud and 78-year-old Amatalah Adam. 

According to the Minneapolis Fire Department, the fire occurred on the 600 block of Cedar Avenue South at about 4 a.m.

In an update Wednesday morning, Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said five people died in the fire. Three people were hospitalized and one firefighter was hurt. The firefighter was later treated and released. 

"Very tragic night at the beginning of a holiday weekend," Fruetel said. 

The fire department reported finding smoke on the 14th floor, which was also where the fire was located. Four of the five people who died were found on the 14th floor and were pronounced dead at the scene. The fifth victim was found in a stairway and transported to a nearby hospital, where the victim later died.

Firefighters also found heavy smoke on the 16th and 17th floors. Crews attempted to ventilate via the roof systems, according to the department.

Meanwhile, residents were evacuated via the building's stairwells.

Crews were able to extinguish the fire in about 30 minutes, according to the fire department, and worked to determine damage to the building.

"I think all things considered (the firefighters) did a very good job, however, remembering that we did just have a very tragic loss of life," Fruetel said. 

During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Fruetel said fire investigators believe the fire was accidental, however, it is still an active investigation.

Jeff Horwich, with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, said the building does not provide family housing and is inhabited by mostly immigrant seniors who live alone or people with disabilities.. The building has a total of 191 units.

Horwich said MPHA will continue to work with authorities to determine how the fire started and how it spread. 

The building has oversight from the federal HUD.

"We are saddened by this loss of life especially during this time where family and friends are gathering. We are unable to comment while the investigation is underway. We are grateful that the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and its community partners, The Red Cross, Volunteers of America, and members of the mosque and community center for their immediate assistance during this tragedy," a spokesperson from HUD said.

According to HUD, the last inspection on the building was 2015. It scored a 95, which is considered a high score. The complex was scheduled for an inspection on Monday, Dec. 2.

"It's rare [for] the Housing Authority to have an apartment fire that spreads beyond a single apartment," he said. "The buildings are made of concrete, so they have a certain natural fireproofing in that sense, so we absolutely will be working very closely with investigators from the fire department to try to understand how the fire unfolded and why this one spread."

MPHA Interim Executive Dirctor Tracey Scott said fewer than nine households will be displaced due to the fire. Scott said MPHA will be able to accommodate those who are impacted.

During the afternoon press conference, City Council member Abdi Warsame, who visited the scene early Wednesday morning, thanked first responders for their work during the fire.

"We are a resilient community, we will overcome this tragedy," Warsame said. "But we did lose five members of our community, and we're in shock."

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey tweeted about the fire Wednesday morning, saying, "Keeping the residents, families, & friends in our thoughts as they wake to news of a tragedy. And all of MPLS is grateful to our firefighters who rushed toward danger & responded w courage to an incredibly challenging set of circumstances."

The People's Center Clinics and Services started a fund to help those impacted by the fire and provide the victims with food, clothing, shelter, medical care and more.

Those wanting to help send donations through their GiveMN page.

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Credits

Rebecca Omastiak & Beth McDonough

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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