Latest: Chief: Fatal Minnesota tower fire likely accidental

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Latest on a Minneapolis apartment fire that killed five people and hospitalized three others (all times local):

3:05 p.m.

The Minneapolis fire chief says investigators believe a high-rise apartment fire that killed five people was an accident.

Fire Chief John Fruetel told reporters that the fire on the 14th floor of Cedar High Apartments had been burning for a while when firefighters arrived early Wednesday.

Fruetel says the flames extended 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 meters) out the windows. The chief says it was “an extreme environment of heat and wind-driven fire” and that the flames “burst the glass.”

Firefighters had to go up the stairs while people were coming down. The chief called it “a very chaotic scenario.”

One firefighter was treated for exertion. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.


10:50 a.m.

A Minneapolis Public Housing Authority spokesman says he’s not aware of any history of safety issues in an apartment tower where a fire killed five people.

Jeff Horwich told the Star Tribune that the 25-floor Cedar High Apartments has smoke alarms but isn’t required to have a sprinkler system by code due to its age.

Horwich referred follow-up questions about the building and its inspection history to an attorney who didn’t immediately respond to messages.

Three other people were injured in the blaze early Wednesday. The building houses mainly seniors and single residents of low-income.


10:10 a.m.

A Minneapolis City Council member says a fire that killed five people Wednesday in a public housing tower “could have been a lot worse.”

Abdi Warsame toured the 14th floor of the Cedar High Apartments, a 25-floor building hit by fire in the early morning hours. Warsame says the floor is “absolutely gutted” and the scene is “horrendous.”

The building sits in a part of Minneapolis known as “Little Mogadishu” for the concentration of Somali immigrants who have settled there. But Warsame, who is Somali-American, says the building’s occupants are not all Somali.

He says residents were gathering for a meeting after the fire and that organizers have arranged interpreters who speak Somali, Korean, Spanish and Oromo.

The building houses many senior citizens, and Warsame says the main priority is to get them back into their apartments where they can be warm and have access to medicines.


9:25 a.m.

The fire that killed five people in a Minneapolis apartment building struck in a public-housing complex mostly inhabited by single people and seniors.

Minneapolis Public Housing spokesman Jeff Horwich says the Cedar High Apartments has only one-bedroom or studio units. Horwich said it’s also unusual for a fire to spread beyond a single unit because the building is concrete, with natural fireproofing that typically keeps a fire from spreading.

The Wednesday morning fire on the building’s 14th floor killed victims in several units.

Horwich and fire officials said residents of the 13th floor and below aren’t being displaced by the fire. Fire officials are checking floors above the fire location for habitability, but Horwich says it’s possible those residents could return later Wednesday.

The genders and ages of the victims and the conditions of the injured were not immediately known, the chief said. A firefighter was being treated for a minor injury.


7:48 a.m.

Minneapolis fire officials say five people have died and three others are hospitalized after a fire swept through a high-rise apartment building.

Fire Chief John Fruetel says the fire broke out early Wednesday on the 14th floor of the building in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood. Firefighters found heavy smoke on the 16th and 17th floors as residents were evacuated through the building’s stairwells.

Fruetel says a firefighter suffered a minor injury.


This story has been corrected to reflect the fire chief’s last name is Fruetel, not Frutel.

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