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Early morning Christmas fire displaces 250 at Minneapolis temporary shelter for homeless

Fire destroys shelter in Minneapolis
Fire destroys shelter in Minneapolis 03:00

Around 250 people were displaced on Christmas after a four-alarm fire tore through a building that had hotel rooms for rent and more long-term apartments, primarily for families experiencing homelessness. Three people were hospitalized and seven were treated on scene, the Minneapolis Fire Department said. 

The Minneapolis Fire Department responded around 3 a.m. to the fire at the Francis Drake Hotel, a three-story brick building in downtown Minneapolis. The fire chief told CBS Minnesota the fire started on the second floor and spread to the third floor. Crews knocked down the flames on first two floors but the fire spread to the attic, which eventually vented through the roof. 

The cause of the fire is still unclear. 

All of the building's 250 residents were evacuated around 4:30 a.m.

Mayor Jacob Frey, who visited the scene early Wednesday morning, tweeted "the only word that comes to mind this morning is heartbreaking. As our firefighters work to contain the blaze, at the Francis Drake Hotel, we already know several hundred lives have been changed. People will need help, and they will need it immediately." 

Frey tweeted that he has been in touch with "private partners and neighboring jurisdictions" for support. 

At a press conference on Thursday, Frey noted all 250 residents are safe. Frey also noted that while they are no longer in need of clothing donations, financial assistance is still very much appreciated.

About two dozen American Red Cross volunteers were on the scene Wednesday. The organization tweeted that the best way to help is to donate online at http://redcross.org/mn because they are unable to accept donations at the site.

Roughly 111 residents Wednesday night stayed at the Bethlehem Baptist church, which is being used a temporary shelter. Two additional locations have offered to provide shelter, and some residents may be moved on Saturday, according to Phil Hansen, the Regional Executive for American Red Cross Minnesota.  

The hotel was built in 1926 as a luxury hotel with 146 rooms, according to The Associated Press. Hennepin County converted it to temporary housing for when there's no room at other homeless shelters.

The building is not safe for the general public and will be boarded up and fenced off, David Frank, Minneapolis Director of Community Planning and Economic Development said at Thursday's press conference. Frank also said the east portion of the building will be demolished.

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