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Cottage Grove apartment fire temporarily displaces 100 people

A fire in the second floor commons area of a Cottage Grove apartment early Sunday forced the entire building to be temporarily evacuated. (Photo courtesy of the Cottage Grove Police Department)

Authorities are investigating a Cottage Grove apartment building fire early Sunday that temporarily displaced about 100 people.

The fire closed the building, and the Red Cross helped find housing for dozens of people who didn’t have other temporary lodging.

Firefighters were called shortly before 5 a.m. Jan. 12 for an alarm at a Woodland Park apartment building, 7815 Hearthside Ave. The first firefighters on scene saw flames in the second-floor commons area, Fire Chief Rick Redenius said.

The fire was contained to the commons area, which includes lounge furniture, but there was smoke and heat damage down one second-floor wing that has six or eight units, Redenius said. None of the apartments were damaged. The fire was extinguished quickly.

The 48-unit building was evacuated by police. Emergency workers called Metro Transit and commuter buses were used as temporary shelter for building residents until the apartment management company opened a nearby community room. From there residents coordinated with family or the Red Cross to find a place to stay for at least one night.

The Red Cross said it helped as many as 23 families -- 35 adults and 15 children -- find emergency shelter after the fire.

It was not known how long the building would remain closed. Residents were escorted into the building later Sunday to retrieve items they would need until they could return.

The cause of the fire was unknown. Redenius said the state fire marshal’s office was called to investigate because it occurred in the commons area, not in an individual apartment, and there was no sign of an accelerant.

“We want a little bit more expertise,” he said.

The building has a controlled access entrance, but it would be possible for someone without permitted access to gain entry.

Nobody was injured by the fire but three residents were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. Additionally, one woman was transported by ambulance to an area hospital as a precaution because of smoke inhalation.

The Woodland Park apartments are near 80th Street and Hemingway Avenue.

The St. Paul Park and Woodbury fire departments assisted.