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South Minneapolis Community Devastated After Fire Ravages Historic Building

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A major building fire in south Minneapolis left several businesses and apartments destroyed overnight, and the flames proved challenging for firefighters to knock down.

The fire broke out around 10:30 p.m. Sunday in a large building at the corner of East Lake Street and Chicago Avenue. It held a variety of businesses, including a restaurant, a Latin dance studio, a clothing store, hair salon and a phone repair shop. There were also apartments on the upper floors.

When crews arrived, they saw flames and heavy smoke coming from the basement. They were able to evacuate everyone from the upstairs apartments, but after making those rescues, the floors became unsafe and wobbly.

The fire burned overnight as crews battled the flames from the outside.

Taylor Harrison, who worked in the building, says she lost all of her music recordings and artwork in the fire.

"There were a couple different people in the building who were all artists, maybe the majority of the building, actually," she said. "There were a few different recording studios, hip-hop studios, dance studios, someone who did painting."

Another artist affected by the fire, photographer Alex Uhrich, started a GoFundMe page Monday to help those who lost artwork, equipment or were displaced by the fire.

"Many of us have lost all our resources to make art, which is how a lot of us sustain ourselves," he said, adding that he lost his entire film catalog in the blaze. "We are asking for a donation to collect and distribute between those who have lost something in this tragedy."

He described what's left of the building as skeletal, noting that the roof collapsed and everything was burned out.

Arianna Jackson, who lives nearby, says the building, which was built in 1895, is well-known in the community. For 78 years, it housed Robert's Shoes.

Four years ago, Khalif Mansour opened a wireless repair shop in the space once occupied by Robert's. He said watching the fire consume the building was "devastating."

"It's Memorial day, and it's going to be a memory for me," he said Monday.

Fire officials are investigating the cause of the fire.

While they are not sure if the building had working smoke detectors, the basement did have a sprinkler system in place.

One big concern for firefighters was the unseasonably warm weather, which was an obstacle when combined with the intense heat of the fire.

One first responder was checked out for smoke inhalation, but other than that, no injuries were reported.

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