Fire, gas leak fear force evacuations from U Twin Cities buildings; no injuries

A photo of a car flushing water
Minneapolis Public Works truck flushing water into the sewer along University Avenue near 16th avenue on June 30 after a reported gas leak.
Peter Cox | MPR News

Updated: 9:15 p.m.

A fire and reports of gas leaks forced the evacuation of several buildings Thursday afternoon on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. There were no reports of injuries.

University officials reported later Thursday night that the buildings had been reopened.

The Minneapolis Fire Department said crews responding to a fire in a three-story building on the 1700 block of University Ave SE found a fire in the basement. As they were fighting the fire, they heard reports of a possible sewer explosion that blew out utility covers.

Crews monitored buildings for natural gas and evacuated all nearby buildings. They continued to get reports of natural gas odor in buildings on Thursday evening, but fire officials said they suspect it was more likely a flammable gas spill versus natural gas in the sewer.

The evacuation area extended between 15th Avenue and Oak Street and Fourth Street to Pillsbury Drive. Transit buses and Northrop Auditorium on campus were used for shelter.

Children at a local YMCA also were evacuated and took shelter on a transit bus, officials said.

In an update posted to Twitter at about 9 p.m. Thursday, university officials said the Minneapolis Fire Department "has provided the all clear for the university to reopen facilities evacuated earlier today."

As of 9 p.m., the university said, University Avenue remained closed to traffic between 15th Avenue and Oak Street Southeast, and emergency personnel remained at the scene.

"Continue to be aware. If you smell a gas odor, call 612-624-COPS (2677)," the university advised.

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