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Associated Press
Sheets of ice formed by water from their hoses hamper firefighters working to control a blaze engulfing several apartments Wednesday in Minneapolis.

Apartment fire sends 14 to Minneapolis hospitals

– A billowing fire engulfed a three-story building with several apartments near downtown Minneapolis early Wednesday, sending more than a dozen people to hospitals with injuries – some critical – ranging from burns to trauma associated with falls.

An explosion was reported at 8:15 a.m., and within minutes a fire raged through the building, said Robert Ball, a spokesman for Hennepin County Emergency Medical Services.

Paramedics, working in subzero temperatures, responded to find victims on the ground, some with injuries that suggested they may have fallen multiple stories.

“It’s not clear whether people were pushed out of the building from the explosion or whether they fell or jumped out of windows to escape,” Ball said.

Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said the fire was essentially out by late Wednesday afternoon. No fatalities had been reported, and none of the fire crew members was hurt, he said.

Assistant Minneapolis Fire Chief Cherie Penn said 14 people were taken to hospitals, suffering from burns, broken bones or both. Six victims were considered to be critically hurt.

Officials said it wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fire. CenterPoint Energy spokeswoman Becca Virden said there were no natural gas leaks in the area.

As firefighters battled the blaze, plumes of thick, whitish-gray smoke rose from the building, which has a grocery store on the ground floor and two levels of apartments above it. Flames could be seen through third-story windows, and the frigid air was filled was the acrid smell of smoke.

Firefighting efforts were hampered by the cold weather. As firefighters aimed their hoses at the flames, water gushed from windows and doorways, forming icicles on window frames and leaving the street slick and icy.

The facade of the building and trees out front were also coated with a layer of ice.