Brainerd firefighters stayed on scene through the night Thursday and all day Friday to make sure no fires rekindled at the Hillcrest Apartment building in south Brainerd that was destroyed by fire Thursday.
More than 20 people lost their home in the fire that destroyed 12 units at the apartment. The estimated loss of the apartment is $1 million.
Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek and Mark Germain with the State Fire Marshal’s office investigated the cause of the fire Friday. Stunek said it appeared that the fire started from a smoldering cigarette, but it has yet to be determined.
More than 50 firefighters from Brainerd, Crosby and Nisswa battled the fire and Brainerd police, Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department, North Memorial Ambulance and the DNR assisted at the scene.
The fire, which was reported at 2:51 p.m. was contained around 4:33 p.m. Stunek said that 200,000 gallons of water were used to extinguish the fire.
“There has been a huge outcry to help the people,” said Stunek. “The tenants are coming to see what is salvageable, but we can’t let everyone in yet as it is still under investigation. There are some items that will be salvageable.”
Terri Ward, along with her mother, Toni Patron, were at the apartment and gathered some family heirlooms.
“She’s doing really well,” said Ward of her mother. “I don’t think it has sunk in yet.”
Stunek said this is the first major event to involve emergency personnel since they began using their new 800 Mhz radio system.
“This was the first real test with our new radios and it was flawless,” said Stunek. “It went smooth.”
Stunek said this fire will be one that many firefighters will not forget because of its magnitude. Stunek said it is fortunate that no one was severely hurt because of the fire. One person and a firefighter were treated for smoke inhalation.
Stunek said some pets were lost in the fire.
“I’m sorry for that because our pets are part of our family,” said Stunek. “We tried the best we could to save as many pets as we could.”