Minneapolis Firefighters Battle Two Fires Simultaneously

"We had 60 of our 90 on-duty firefighters at both scenes," said Chief Jim Clack.

Minneapolis firefighters were stretched thin as they battled two building fires on Wednesday morning, said Minneapolis Fire Chief Jim Clack.

A two-alarm fire was reported on Washington Avenue, just outside of downtown, about 10:30 a.m. The fire was in a three-story building with a cafe occupying the first floor and apartments on the top two floors.

The fire that started in a stairwell on the top floor was discovered by a female resident who alerted two sleeping tenants on the second floor. They returned to the fire to try and extinguish it, Clack said, but it was raging out of control.

"The workers at Steve's Auto World saw the flames and called it in," the chief said.

First arriving firefighters found heavy fire from the rear of the building, and initiated an interior attack. The advanced fire and large billboard on the roof caused crews to back out and go defensive.

Firefighters used an aerial device, tower ladder, Squrt and several master streams to control the fire in just about three hours.

A dozen pieces of apparatus and 40 firefighters surrounded the main thoroughfare through Minneapolis, which was just a stone's throw from the I-35W bridge that collapsed last year.

"The firefighters did a great job," Clack said as crews worked in temperatures hovering just below zero with wind gusts creating a "real feel" of 10 below. "Some of the firefighters came up to me to shake my hand with their frozen gloves...they were crusted in ice after being out there so long."

A bus was brought into to allow firefighters the chance to warm up before returning to the scene.

Less than four miles away, another 20 firefighters waged an attack on a smoky fire in a one-story commercial building on Nicollet Avenue. This was the second fire in the same building on Wednesday.

"We had 60 of our 90 on-duty firefighters at both scenes," Clack told Firehouse.com. "We did a call-back for off duty firefighters to come in and respond to other fires and emergencies in the city."

The St. Paul Fire and Safety Services also responded on mutual aid, covering Minneapolis Station 7 with an engine and ladder company.