A duplex fire in the city of Minneapolis has left an entire city reeling with grief. This morning, in the hours just before dawn, a three story duplex fire took the lives of five innocent children. Ten other occupants escaped the fire, including a grieving father who helplessly watched his children burn to death. The duplex was located in a north Minneapolis neighborhood. Two families lived in the three story building. Troy Lewis, a 60 year old man, lived in the two upper floors with his seven children. Latonya Garrett lived downstairs with her husband and four kids.
According to Garrett, just before dawn, her step-son woke the family up because he heard screaming from upstairs. The family could smell smoke, so they hurried out into the yard away from the apparent danger. What they saw was a heartbreaking scene.
Lewis, sitting on the window ledge, was yelling as loud as he could. His house was on fire, his kids were burning. Lewis managed to escape, saving two of his kids along the way. One he was able to carry out the front door. The other one he leapt with from the second story window. Neighbors said that all they could see was smoke billowing from the upper levels of the house. All they could hear, was the screaming of children. By the time firefighters arrived on the scene, the screaming had stopped, and all Lewis could do was helplessly watch as his children burned. Firefighters and medical examiners later determined that three of the children died in the fire itself. Two more unconscious bodies were taken to the hospital, where they died shortly after. All five of the children were less than ten years old.
Minneapolis firefighters who responded to the scene said that the house was showing a high volume of smoke on the second and third floors when they arrived. Almost immediately, the smoke turned into fire. It took them almost three hours to completely extinguish the blaze. They entered the house despite the high risk involved, in an attempt to save those still trapped. One firefighter was taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries received while attempting the rescue.
Mission Inn Minnesota Inc. are the owners of the property. They are a company who specializes in buying older buildings and refurbishing them in order to rent them to low income families. Paul Bertelson spoke for the company after the tragic event. Both families living in the 102 year old duplex had only been there a few months. Prior to moving in, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors had been installed and tested for all three floors. He reassured that although the property was old, it was up to code and met all fire regulations.
Authorities later confirmed that a seven and eight year old girl were the two children who survived the blaze. Two boys and three girls were all lost to the fire. Lewis himself is in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. Although the source of the blaze has yet to be completely determined, it is proven that a space heater was being used on the upper floors, and is the likeliest cause of the blaze. No signs of arson have been found at this time. Despite how the fire started, it won’t change the image of a father in his front yard helplessly watching as his children are burned to death.
By Chris Chisam