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5 people die in Minneapolis duplex fire



By AMY FORLITI

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A pre-dawn blaze at a north Minneapolis duplex left five people dead, including at least three children, officials said Friday.

A neighbor described how a young family of eight living in the upstairs unit screamed for help as firefighters smashed into the burning building to try to rescue them.

Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said three children died at the scene. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office later confirmed the two additional deaths, but did not immediately release any information about the victims.

Other residents were injured and taken to area hospitals. The conditions of the injured were not immediately released.

Fire officials said 15 people lived in the duplex.

Brandi Craig, who lives across the street and watched as firefighters tried to rescue the children, said the residents of the duplex's lower unit were able to get out. She said a man, whose wife died in November after an illness, lived in the upper level with seven children, ages 1 to 9. She said at least some of the children slept on the third floor.

"They were all screaming," Craig said, her face twisting with emotion. "Once they stopped screaming, it was over."

Fruetel said firefighters encountered heavy smoke and fire on the second and third floor of the duplex as they searched for victims and survivors.

It took them about 2½ hours to put out the fire. There was a smell of burnt wood in the air hours after the blaze. The house's front exterior appeared mostly intact aside from blown out and broken windows and doors. The interior that could be seen through the window was charred, and there were visible ceiling beams and torn insulation.

The cause of the fire was being investigated.

Craig said she and her fiance took the kids some soda pop on Thursday night.

"We gave them hugs and kisses and told them we'd see them in the morning," she said.

Instead she woke up and the house was engulfed in flames, a blaze already too dangerous for her to do anything but watch as firefighters broke down the door and tried to rescue the kids. She saw them bring two apparently deceased children from the building. At that point, she said, she couldn't watch anymore.

"It just took everything away from me," she said.

City records show an inspection report last summer called for repairs to smoke detectors in the unit, among other violations. City spokesman Matt Laible said all of the violations were taken care of, and that the unit's rental license was renewed just a week ago.

The owner of the property, Paul Bertelson, said the family moved in about six to eight months ago.

"There were no disturbances. They were good tenants," he said, adding that the upper unit included two bedrooms on the second floor, and three on the third floor.

Bertelson's company identifies distressed or foreclosed properties, refurbishes them and rents to low-income families. He said the 102-year-old duplex had smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The upper unit is heated by permanent baseboard units.

Asst. Fire Chief Cherie Penn said in an email that one of the more than 40 firefighters who responded to the scene suffered a minor injury and was being treated at a hospital.

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GUNSLINGER February 15 2014 at 9:04 AM

They could not have died, there wasn't a gun involved. They're all just fine!!!

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1 reply to GUNSLINGER's comment
tdiplaci February 15 2014 at 9:12 AM

You know, people like you need to be shipped over to Iran and turned into slaves. You do not belong here. You are a slap in the face to respectable gun owners.

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brian February 15 2014 at 8:16 AM

Had to be heartbreaking for the fire/fighters
I am a retired fire/fighter.We lost 6 family
members in a house fire.
Five children and the mother
Our prayers go out to the famlies.

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hpycmpr155 February 15 2014 at 6:13 AM

15 people in one duplex????
What is wrong with this picture?

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Sharon February 15 2014 at 5:34 AM

This is so sad...so many house fires due to families trying to stay warm from this unbearable cold winter we are having. We do everything we can to keep our familes & our selfs warm. I just read where the husband/father from KY who just lost his wife & 8 yes 8 kids in a house fire he was released from the hospital yesterday with 1 child still in the hospital. My heart breaks for these familes. My thoughts & prayers go out to this family.

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libby704 February 15 2014 at 3:03 AM

it will be four years ago i lost my 28 year old son and 8 year old grandson in a house fire. my heart goes out to them just so much. this poor family. there are no words. i hurt for them. being in that place before.

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Ann Sisco February 15 2014 at 2:50 AM

really and we worry more about sending money to countries with expected weather venoms' and cannot take care of 7 kids without a mom, what is wrong with this picture. We need to start cleaning up our own backyards so our kids are safe from horror before we can start happening third world countries with their hands out asking for more. wtf how about texting for $10 by text to american children living in poverty. This country is ass backwards!

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dsvstheworld February 15 2014 at 2:30 AM

Where was god? Too busy listening to the prayers of a sports team to win? Stuff like this proves those of you who pray are wasting your time. If they survived "our prayers were answered by god!" If they die the horrible death.."god needed more angels." It's all so contrived and rediculous. Stop wasting your time and money on religion and live and enjoy your life because at any time you could lose it or someone you love.

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4 replies to dsvstheworld's comment
DieselnBella February 15 2014 at 2:08 AM

RIP Sweet Angels, tears as i read this.... My sympathies to all that have been lost... and your famlies

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SSmarr4PR February 15 2014 at 1:44 AM

When I read about this tragedy, I cried. May all family and friends take strength in knowing "To be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord."

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me817 February 15 2014 at 12:13 AM

Hopefully, the investigation makes an exact determination as to the cause and origin and not just attribute the cause to "electrical" without ever explaining how they came to that conclusion, what physical evidence they uncovered to make that determination and being specific. Electrical can be anything from a faulty wire in an appliance to misuse of an extension cord, or an electrical space heater too close to flammable material.

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tdiplaci February 15 2014 at 9:17 AM

As an electrical contractor I was sued for a fire that was not at all my fault. The lawsuit stated" due to the fact that a specific cause of the fire could not be determined, it must have been electrical" and therefore they wanted 355,000.00!! Pictures clearly showed that someone had drilled about 30 holes in a baseboard trying to get a phone line into the basement and nicked one of my wires. To me the cause was clear. This was a tragic fire and I sure hope they can determine the real cause and not speculate. My sympathies to the families involved.

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