How to help the victims of the Drake Hotel fire in Minneapolis

About 250 people displaced; fire officials say the fire is out

Volunteers help pack donations.
Volunteers help pack donations for residents of the Francis Drake Hotel in Minneapolis Wednesday.
Christopher Juhn for MPR News

Updated: 5:45 p.m.

Firefighters on Thursday said they have put out a Christmas Day blaze at a downtown Minneapolis hotel used as a temporary shelter for the homeless.

The fire at the Francis Drake Hotel took no lives but displaced about 250 people.

The building is going to be a total loss and the cause of the fire may never be known, said Bryan Tyner, the city’s assistant fire chief. A spokesperson for the city says part of the building will be torn down due to safety concerns.

Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday visited with displaced families who’ve taken refuge at Bethlehem Baptist Church. He said he’s preparing a bonding request for the Legislature that will respond to a need for long-term housing.

"This persistent homelessness and the issue of housing, this just becomes starkly real here,” Walz said. “We knew it was out there, we see it, it's always around us, but a lot of times without these tragedies it may not come home to people the same way."

The fire was reported at about 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Fire crews arrived at the hotel to find heavy fire on the second floor. Firefighters were able to clear the building of occupants and extinguish the bulk of the blaze in four units relatively quickly, but were unable to prevent the fire from extending into the attic of the three-story building.

The Drake Hotel opened in 1926 as a luxury hotel. It’s still privately owned but has become a residential hotel. In recent years, Hennepin County has used it as a temporary overflow shelter.

City and state inspection reports released Thursday show no unaddressed building code violations.

An official with the Minnesota Fire Marshal Division who conducted a mandatory inspection in November 2018 found uninsulated wiring on lights in a common area, two fire doors that had been propped open and problems with the building's emergency lighting and exit signs among other.

During a follow-up visit last June, inspector Ryan Whiting found that all eight violations had been corrected and the building met minimum safety requirements.

A lodging inspection report from last September indicated that the building's fire extinguishers had last been serviced in November 2018. Because of its age, the Drake Hotel was not required to have sprinklers. Tyner said its fire alarm system appears to have worked correctly.

How to help

Hundreds of donations have poured in for displaced residents, but groups working with those affected are now asking for monetary donations instead of material items.

Some of the donations sit in a city bus.
Some of the donations sit in a city bus waiting to be taken to be stored and distributed for residents.
Christopher Juhn for MPR News

In a tweet, the American Red Cross said it is "unable to support goods donated on scene."

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers and education support professionals for the public school district, said it has received so many donations that it is now asking for gift cards only. As of 11:30 a.m., they had taken in approximately $1,300 in gift cards at their headquarters in Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Foundation is also accepting donations to support immediate and long-term needs of displaced residents. To donate, text DRAKEFIRE to 243725.

MPR News reporter Matt Sepic contributed to this story.

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