Fire burns encampment in south Minneapolis; 2 people injured

A person looks into an encampment
A resident looks past police tape to see if any of their belongings survived among the burnt remains of Camp Nenookaasi at 28th Street and 11th Avenue after a fire destroyed residents’ tents and belongings on Thursday.
Nicole Neri for MPR News

Updated: 4:21 p.m.

Two people were injured in a fast-moving fire at an encampment in south Minneapolis on Thursday afternoon.

Authorities said those injuries were not life-threatening.

The fire was reported just after noon at the Camp Nenookaasi encampment on the 1100 block of East 28th Street.

A cloth reads we deserve to recover and land back
A cloth reading “We Deserve to Recover/Land Back” is hung on the fence surrounding the burnt remains of Camp Nenookaasi.
Nicole Neri for MPR News

Journalist John Gonzalez with Standing Bear Network was at the camp on Thursday to interview residents, well before the fire broke out. He had just gone to his truck with a friend when they saw flames.

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“So we went back to the main entryway and went in, not expecting the fire to accelerate as rapidly as it did,” he said. “It was devastating. I mean, there’s absolutely nothing left. I never experienced that intense a heat on my face before.”

Gonzalez posted video of the fire as it tore through the encampment and as residents and bystanders frantically searched through tents to make sure everyone had gotten out.

Gonzalez and others at the scene told MPR News they were thankful that no one was seriously hurt, but residents lost nearly everything they had. Camp organizers put out a call for donations of tents, blankets and other supplies, as well as financial donations.

The fire sent a thick plume of dark smoke into the sky over south Minneapolis and left charred debris spread across the site that had been home to Camp Nenookaasi for about a month. The encampment relocated there after being evicted from previous locations in south Minneapolis.

City officials said Thursday afternoon that about 50 people had been living at the camp, though it was not clear how many were there at the time of the fire. There was no immediate word on the cause of Thursday’s fire.

a police officer walks through an encampment
A police officer walks through the burnt remains of Camp Nenookaasi.
Nicole Neri for MPR News