n All safe after explosion rocked apartment complex, house fire in Rogers
by Aaron Brom
ECM Sun Newspapers
No injuries were reported after an auxiliary heating unit blew up outside of a Rogers apartment building Sunday, Jan. 5.
The Rogers Fire and Rescue Department also responded to a house fire in southern Rogers the previous evening, all while outside temperatures hovered in double-digit below-zero territory.
“It was a rough weekend,” Rogers Fire Chief Brad Feist said. “I’m waiting for next Saturday when it’s 33 degrees.”
The chief said forecasts for extreme cold triggered his intuition to cut a vacation short ahead of the weekend. His intuition was right on.
“When you have these types of conditions, everything is stressed,” he said. “There was black ice on Interstate 94 causing many crashes, we had carbon monoxide vents freezing up, causing alarms to go off. Then we had the house fire and apartment explosion.”
The chief said his department not only battled subzero temperatures, but dealt with failing equipment like frozen hoses.
“Our police and fire members did a fantastic job,” he said. “Not one person got hurt, and that’s all that matters.”
The apartment explosion at the Preserve at Commerce in northeast Rogers garnered metro and national attention due to a huge fireball that was burning outside a compatible gas mixture unit. The fire erupted into several explosions, including one last bang that finally fizzled out the gas source.
Feist said his friends who live in Rogers and others reported it “feeling like an earthquake struck” when the explosions went off.
Fire and rescue officials came to the scene at 8:45 a.m. and quickly evacuated the apartment residents to the nearby Hampton Inn and the Rogers movie theater. Metro Transit buses were called in to help transport residents and served as a warm command center for Feist, Rogers Police Chief Jeff Beahen and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.
“Everyone was rushing to the scene, and you just didn’t know what was going on until you got there,” Feist said. “When I heard about those explosions, I asked myself, ‘What do we have going on here?’ But everything turned out well.”
Some apartment units had windows blown out, but overall there was no structural or fire damage to the residential area. A gazebo-like wooden structure that housed the auxiliary heating unit was left damaged with a huge hole torn out from the explosion. The building inspector allowed residents to come back to their apartments about 4 p.m.
Feist said the cause is still under investigation.
The department also put out a house fire Saturday night at the northeast corner of 131st Avenue and Gray Fox Trail in southern Rogers.
A family was displaced after flames erupted near the chimney on the house’s east side. Feist said his firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze, prevent it from spreading and salvage the house in the process.
“We’re waiting for an investigation team,” Feist said regarding the fire’s cause. “But we have a pretty good idea that it originated near the fireplace.”
The chief had many thanks.
“Hose lines were freezing up. It was very slippery. The weather stresses the system. But our men and women did a fantastic job considering the conditions they were dealing with,” he said.