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1 home destroyed, 2 badly damaged in wind-whipped Minneapolis fire

The blaze started in a vacant and boarded-up home in the Phillips neighborhood, then spread to two additional homes and a garage.

MINNEAPOLIS — Four buildings were either destroyed or badly damaged early Wednesday when fire ripped through the 2800 block of 14th Avenue South in Minneapolis' Phillips neighborhood. 

According to information shared by Minneapolis fire officials, crews were on the scene of a 3-alarm fire laying lines to a vacant building in Minneapolis just before 4 a.m.

The fire started in a boarded up and vacant house, then jumped from the two-and-a-half story building to neighboring homes on both the north and south side. Minneapolis Fire reported that two adults and their two dogs and a cat were evacuated from one of these houses, and the other was vacant. 

KARE 11 reporter Jennifer Austin spoke to Katie Hakes, who recently relocated to Minneapolis from Wisconsin and was one of the residents that had to be evacuated. 

"We thought that maybe somebody was trying to break in, so then he (her boyfriend) went to the door to see what was going on and they said you've got to get out the house, next door is on fire," Hakes told Austin. She says it appears that half of their rental home is likely burned. 

Hakes went on to say that since she moved into the Phillips neighborhood from she's noticed high volumes of drug crime, including around the area where the fire originally ignited. 

While crews were working on the three burning buildings, a nearby garage also began to burn. For a time, firefighters had their hoses turned to all four structures simultaneously. The vacant home that caught on fire first eventually collapsed, while the others were badly damaged and deemed uninhabitable. 

Assistant Fire Chief Melanie Rucker told reporters that high winds had an impact on firefighting efforts, extending the fire in the homes. Heat exhaustion was also a concern for fire crews, who were able to rotate in and out due to the three alarms that were called. . 

Rucker says this is the third fire involving a boarded-up home this week. She explains that usually firefighters see more of these incidents during the winter as squatters enter trying to get out of the elements. That may be the case with recent fires as well, with the scenario that people may be trying to get inside to escape the stifling heat wave we're experiencing. 

Assistant Chief Rucker also says that the rash of fires has been especially challenging as the department is short-staffed, down around 40 sworn firefighters due to a run of recent retirements. She says MFD is working to get personnel and staffing numbers up.

Two Minneapolis firefighters were injured on the job fighting a separate fire Tuesday night. One of them needed to be treated for heat exhaustion. 

Fortunately there were no injuries reported Wednesday morning to either fire crews or people living in the homes affected by the fire. 

Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, and said that the two houses still standing will be boarded up following their investigation. 

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