Crews fight apartment fire in 7 degree weather

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Authorities were working Thursday morning to account for everyone living in an apartment building that was burning in Elk River.

Fire Chief T. John Cunningham fielded questions from reporters at the fire scene.

Fire Chief T. John Cunningham fielded questions from reporters at the fire scene.

Fire Chief T. John Cunningham said crews were called to the Evans Meadows apartment complex in the 350 block of Evans Avenue around 6:30 a.m.

Big Lake firefighters were among those from several departments who fought the fire.

Big Lake firefighters were among those from several departments who fought the fire. Photos by Joni Astrup

When they arrived on the scene, they discovered heavy fire on the back (west) side of one of the apartment buildings, Cunningham said at a morning press briefing outside the building. “Due to the wind and the extreme weather today, it did carry the fire throughout the building quite rapidly,” he said.

There was a collapse on the third floor of the building, he said.

Firefighters were still fighting the fire and conducting a secondary search to make sure all parties were accounted for, he said. The police department was also working with the property manager and residents to make sure everyone living in the building was fully accounted for, he said.

Fifteen of the 16 apartments in the building were occupied, according to Police Chief Brad Rolfe.

Residents have been evacuated to Guardian Angels at 350 Evans Ave. and to St. Andrew’s Catholic Church at 566 4th St., he said.

There are no reports of injuries at this time, Cunningham said.

Justin Araskog, who lives in the apartment building next door, said he woke up about 6:30 a.m. and heard “tons of sirens.”

A firefighter sprayed water on the front of the building.

A firefighter sprayed water on the front of the building.

By the time he got up and went out, he said he started seeing the whole top level of the building on fire.

The fire’s origin has not yet been determined.

“When we first arrived on scene we did see heavy fire on the back side of the building,” Cunningham said. “Whether or not that’s exactly where it originated, that will be determined throughout the course of the investigation.”

About 10 fire departments responded to the fire, including several aerial ladder units.

An aerial ladder truck was used to spray water on the top of the apartment building.

An aerial ladder truck was used to attack the fire from the top of the apartment building.

Cunningham said the weather conditions were adding to the challenge of fighting the fire.

“Fighting a fire obviously is dangerous and unsafe in any conditions,” he said. “We’re at about 7 degrees outside right now. That certainly provides some extremes for our firefighers, our personnel.”

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