Fire destroys three businesses near U

A fire consumed a building in Prospect Park last week. No one was hurt.

The building that caught fire early Thursday morning on University Avenue Southeast housed an auto body shop. Now, rows of burnt cars line what would have been the back wall of the shop.

Bridget Bennett

The building that caught fire early Thursday morning on University Avenue Southeast housed an auto body shop. Now, rows of burnt cars line what would have been the back wall of the shop.

Daily Staff

A large fire consumed a deli, a day care center and an auto body shop on University Avenue Southeast last week. No injuries were reported.

The cause of the two-alarm fire that started late Wednesday and continued into Thursday morning is under investigation, but it seems to have started in the auto body shop, said Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel. Fire crews arrived around midnight and were still extinguishing hotspots at 9 a.m. on Thursday, according to a press release from Assistant Chief Cherie Penn.

The affected building, at 2812 University Ave. SE, housed Sabrina Grocery and Deli, Milano Child Care Center and Jeff’s Top Line Auto Body. Police and fire department officials said the roof of the auto body shop collapsed and at least six cars were destroyed.

The building is insured for about $1.3 million, according to a Meridian Insurance spokesman.

Loud pops could be heard inside the flaming auto shop, which Fruetel attributed to exploding paint cans and other flammable materials.

David Barnhart, who owns the building and two adjacent properties with his son Jeff, said flammable materials were in the shop, but they were stored safely.

Police cleared away spectators and evacuated houses behind the building over concerns that a radio tower anchored to the building would collapse. The tower, which was at least 200 feet tall, later crumpled in on itself, and Prospect Park residents were able to return to their homes.

“We were all worried about [the tower], and it started to lean, and everybody was backing away, and we were moving people, and all of a sudden — just like an accordion — it collapsed right into itself,” Barnhart said.

Moayid Al Subhi, a University of Minnesota computer science sophomore, said he used to go to Sabrina for Ethiopian food every day with other international students.

“It’s a big loss for international students,” he said, “especially Muslim students.”

Late Thursday morning, community members and business owners gathered at the scene. Heaps of rubble were still smoking as firefighters tried to move destroyed vehicles, identified as “hot spots,” where more fires were likely to start.

Samson Ifonlaja, co-owner of Jeff’s Top Line, said the loss of the building is a big one for the neighborhood.

“It was more than just these businesses,” he said. “It was really a community center.”