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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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Doug February 14 2014 at 3:29 PM

May the poor little guys rest in peace!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
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.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
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

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Julie February 14 2014 at 11:28 PM

"They were all screaming," Craig said, her face twisting with emotion. "Once they stopped screaming, it was over." This has to be one of the most heartbreaking sentences I have ever read. She must be in such pain and anguish today. My heart goes out to her, emergency responders and the families of the victims. So sad and so difficult to lose a child.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
1 reply
Cath's Julie February 15 2014 at 6:08 AM

I agree. I pray that God was merciful and these little angels became unconscious from smoke inhalation ..never feeling the horrific pain of dying by fire. The anguish the firefighters felt as they fought valiantly to save these children must be equally as devastasting. So very tragic.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
ozalot February 14 2014 at 11:22 PM

So sad, may they RIP.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
richsglobal February 14 2014 at 7:10 PM

Rochester Prays For Our Northern Neighbors..... Where Are The Required Fire Escape Ladders? Please Everyone, Practice Getting Out In An Emergency. Learn How To Open Windows, Practice Climbing Down Roofs, Arrange An Outside Meeting Place, Consult With The Local Fire Department, Have Them Over To Recommend! They Will Be Glad To Help You In Good Health Instead Of Carrying You Out Of HELL !

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1 reply
Cath's richsglobal February 15 2014 at 6:37 AM

Rochester MN? My husband was from Spring Valley and I lost him a couple of years ago at an early age. Good advice !! Fire Depts are more than willing to assist in preventing tragedies such as this. 'Fire drills' shouldn't be limited to stores and schools.

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skitzlpk February 14 2014 at 4:16 PM

Over loaded wiring or combustible, solid fueled materials being used to supplement the heat during these frigid conditions & a home this old turns into a raging inferno with very dry timbers acting as the fuel from a single spark or centrally over heated area. Loss of life is terrible but the loss is exacerbated when you know someone endured the horror of that which engulfed them.

Sincere condolences..

Flag Reply +1 rate up
rlmcanoe February 14 2014 at 4:21 PM

Condolences from Massachusetts, how can anyone read this and not feel the pain for the family. so sad

Flag Reply +5 rate up
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