Minneapolis fire department officials say an accidental grease fire that started in a restaurant kitchen caused a two-alarm blaze that heavily damaged several nearby shops.
Fire officials say the blaze injured two firefighters and spread to the other storefront businesses contained in the building, destroying several storefronts near the corner of 50th St. and Bryant Avenue South. They include the Blackbird Cafe, Heidi's restaurant and Patina gift shop.
Heidi's sustained heavy damages, as did the Blackbird Cafe, Patina Gift shop, Shoppe Local and Stacey Johnson Jewelry Design. The owners of the Blackbird Cafe Chris and Gail Stevens stood across the street and watched as their restaurant burned. Chris Stevens was visibly shaken and declined to talk to reporters.
Firefighters found two pans with grease on the stove. The flames leapt to the attic and roof and spread throughout the building.
A few dozen neighborhood residents came out to watch the fire, including Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak who lives several blocks away.
"My wife and I have spent so many nice nights in Blackbird. We've shopped - this is where we get all our gifts," the mayor said. "But, the other thing is to think of all these entrepreneurs who just put sweat equity into building wonderful businesses and they're gone. It's just a horrible, horrible thing."
Ian St. James, who lives in the area and looked on as firefighters battled the flames, said the shops and restaurants destroyed by the fire were very popular.
"I'm so sad for the neighborhood. This brings so much to the neighborhood. All the other businesses -- they feed off," he said. "They're nice, mom-and-pop kind of individual businesses. Not big chains."
Fire department officials say there were no other injuries. One firefighter was hit by part of a collapsing ceiling and another sustained a laceration that required stitches.
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