MINNEAPOLIS — Three homes are considered a total loss after a vacant home in the Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis caught fire Wednesday morning.
According to the Minneapolis Fire Department, the fire started in a vacant, boarded home on the 2800 block of 17th Avenue South around 4 a.m., then spread to both neighboring homes, fed by strong winds. Two people were evacuated from one of the neighboring homes, and the other was also vacant.
Katie Hakes was lying in bed when she heard firefighters pounding on her door, trying to evacuate her and her boyfriend. While the couple was able to get their pets out of the home safely, everything else they had was lost.
“There’s at least six inches of water inside the home,” she said. “Half of the house is burnt. Everything is melted…We lost basically everything.”
The home in which the fire started completely collapsed, and the other two homes were destroyed, fire officials said. No injuries were reported.
Neighbors in the area said that a nearby homeless encampment could be a point of concern. Hakes said that she’s seen people attempting to break into the vacant homes in recent days, adding that police have been called to respond almost daily.
Minneapolis councilmember Jason Chavez, who represents the area, was among the people assessing the damage Wednesday morning. When asked about the situation, he said that it was “very complex.”
“The fire that occurred is not OK,” he said. “It should have never happened. We have housing for people here. We need a place where we can support the encampment by moving it to a place where it’s safe and staffed with public safety support. It’s about supporting the neighbors that are stressed out and rightfully scared after seeing a house burn down in the middle of them.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
In a statement from a city spokesperson, crime in the area is up more than 50% in recent weeks, with an increase in drug use, assaults, and damage to property. The statement says the city has plans to evacuate the area.
But Chavez says simply forcing people out isn’t enough.
“It’s going to turn into 10 encampments in the neighborhood, which is going to turn into 10 different situations in midtown, in East Phillips neighborhood,” he said.
Hakes and her boyfriend recently moved into the home around Memorial Day weekend. The Red Cross will be assisting her and her partner.