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Scott Wente, Forum News Service, Published January 12 2014

Building residents displaced by fire in Cottage Grove

COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. – Authorities are investigating an apartment building fire here early Sunday that temporarily displaced about 100 people.

Firefighters were called shortly before 5 a.m. 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, Redenius said.

It was not immediately known whether the building would remain closed for longer than a day.

Residents were escorted into the building later Sunday to retrieve items they would need while the building was closed.

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.

“We want to talk to some residents who said they heard some voices (in the commons area) but we don’t know what they were hearing,” Redenius said.

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.