Fire damages downtown building

Minneapolis firefighters fought a blaze at a downtown building on south Washington and 12th avenues Wednesday.

The three-story building at 1201 Washington Ave. S. was ablaze for most of the day. The building houses Maxwell’s American Cafe and Scandia Furniture.

No injuries were reported.

The Minneapolis Fire Department cleared a collapse zone around the building from the Interstate 35W junction to 11th Avenue along Washington.

Alex Jackson, Minneapolis’ assistant fire chief, said he was worried the building could fall after a partial collapse on its third floor.

When the building structure is in question, the department brings in a building engineer, he said.

Jackson said the department received a call about the fire at 10:34 a.m. Within 11 minutes, a second fire station was called to the scene.

In total, five stations responded with 15 fire trucks and department vehicles, Jackson said. About 40 responders were on hand throughout the day.

“It’s been an eventful morning,” Jackson said at the scene. “We’re going to be here for a while.”

The second and third floors have three apartments that house four residents, all of whom are safe.

Morey Mueller, 48, who lives in in the building, said he tried to put out the fire with an extinguisher, but it was too big at that point.

He said everyone is safe, and “you can replace everything else.”

Jackson didn’t know the cause of the fire, which began on the second floor and spread to the third. He said he was also worried a large billboard sign on the roof of the building would collapse.

Metro Transit provided a “rescue bus,” and shifts of fire fighters took turns warming up inside from the sub-zero temperatures.

Crews began leaving the scene midafternoon but the incident commander remained on the scene to monitor the site until the fire could be deemed out, Jackson said.

For the fire to be officially declared “out,” officials must be able to re-enter the building and verify the flames are completely extinguished.

As of press time, the fire was officially under control.

Deputy Chief Dave DeWall said he will keep crews rotating through the night to monitor the building.

“We’ll be working with the building official and a structural engineer tomorrow to determine if the building needs to be torn down or if it can be rehabbed,” DeWall said.