UPDATE: No injuries in blaze at Cottage Grove apartment building
Flames melted siding and black smoke shot from the first- and second-floor windows of a Cottage Grove apartment building last week during a fire officials believe sparked on a kitchen stove.
No injuries occurred in the blaze that broke out shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday at the Woodland Park Apartments on Hearthside Avenue, near the Park Grove Branch Library.
Acrid smoke lingered over the apartment complex and dozens of neighbors gathered in the streets and driveways surrounding the scene to watch fire crews extinguish the flames.
Firefighters from Newport, St. Paul Park and Woodbury joined Cottage Grove fire crews at the complex and prevented the flames from spreading through the building.
"I guess they built (the apartment building) pretty sturdily," said Cottage Grove public safety director Craig Woolery.
Smoke and water damaged three adjacent units, Woolery said. The Red Cross is assisting the displaced residents.
Woolery said the smoke and flames were too thick for the first Cottage Grove officers on the scene to enter the apartment when it was initially feared a child was alone in the unit. Some nearby residents, too, had tried to enter the apartment amid worries a child was inside the burning apartment.
Officials confirmed the apartment was empty when the flames sparked, though, after firefighters completed a room-by-room sweep of the apartment and investigators interviewed a man and woman who were staying at the second-floor apartment.
It was clear the flames sparked in the kitchen, officials said. The two adults staying at the apartment -- Candy Jackson, of Richfield, and Donley McIntosh, of St. Louis Park -- said the blaze began as a grease fire that started when they left briefly to go to a nearby Rainbow Foods.
Jackson and McIntosh said they returned to find squad cars and fire trucks already on the scene.