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6 months later: New Year's Day fire victims still trying to heal


It's been six months since a fire destroyed an apartment building in Minneapolis' Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. The story has faded from headlines and peoples' minds – and with it, monetary support for the neighborhood in need.

The New Year's Day explosion and subsequent fire killed three and injured 14, and those affected by the fire say they now feel forgotten, WCCO reports.

In the first days and weeks after the fire, fundraisers were held and donations poured in. Hennepin County, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and a number of donors chipped in, raising $50,000 for the victims.

Proceeds went directly to survivors to help reimburse uncovered funeral expenses, secure housing, replace some household items, offer counseling services and help with special accommodations needed as a result of injury, Pillsbury United Communities notes.

But the money went fast – $18,000 went to funerals for the three killed, and there are still significant financial needs for the fire victims. Many of those injured will never be able to return to work, TC Daily Planet notes, and it took months for some of the victims to settle into permanent housing. A few even remain homeless, WCCO says.

Many victims of the fire worked more physically demanding jobs, but are now unable to work because of injuries they suffered from the fire, the station adds.

Minneapolis School Board member Mohamud Noor and other leaders in the Minneapolis Somali community have been trying to help bring a little hope and comfort to the neighborhood, but they're falling short.

“If you look at the pool of fund we have, we have issued almost all of it, but the need is huge,” Noor told WCCO. “We want to help them but we cannot afford to do that, we don’t have that capacity.”

People who are interested in donating can click here. Be sure to note “Cedar-Riverside Fire Disaster Relief” on all donations.

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Cause of the fire undetermined

Three people were killed and over a dozen injured in the explosion and fire on the morning of New Year's Day. Some people had to jump for their lives, while others were rescued by ladder trucks as firefighters fought the flames in subzero temperatures.

Initial reports of injuries stated 14 were injured, six of them critically. The injuries ranged from burns to trauma, suffered when victims tried to escape the blaze.

The fire was first reported after 8 a.m. at the three-story apartment building, which also housed a grocery store. Flames gutted the interior and the building was determined a total loss.

The cause of the fire is undetermined, the State Fire Marshal Division concluded in its report, and the case is closed. The report says it appears the blaze started on the second level in apartment two, and there are three hypotheses: natural gas leaking from an unknown point and sparking in that apartment; an attempt to operate an older, free-standing natural gas heater in apartment two; or a crack in the bathroom plumbing that may have allowed methane gas to seep in.

In the days after the fire, the Minnesota Office of Pipe Line Safety, CenterPoint Energy and the FBI and ATF were all on the scene to investigate the fire. Initially the Minneapolis fire department suspected a natural gas explosion that ignited the fire, but CenterPoint Energy disputed that notion, saying it wasn't the cause.

MPR News says undetermined causes aren't all that uncommon – about one-third of Minneapolis' fire investigations end in uncertainty because tracing the cause of a fire is difficult, comparable to an archeological dig, the station says.

The explosion and blaze captured national attention, with coverage on CNN and ABC News.

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