Dozens of people to evacuated their apartments after the Bloomington, Minn., complex caught fire Sunday morning.
Firefighters faced a difficult scene when they arrived, and they had to break down some doors in the building to make sure everyone got out safely.
The Red Cross is currently lending aid to residents of the 40-unit complex on the 8000 block of 12th Avenue South located just off of American Boulevard.
A mobile feeding unit was sent to provide meals and hydration to the families as volunteers work to help them determine the next steps they should take.
Investigators say the fire began as a grease fire in the kitchen of one unit, which was destroyed.
"Here's where they were cooking," said landlord Chad Anderson as he walked FOX 9's Paul Blume through the wreckage. "That may be the plate that started it."
Anderson said a tenant was cooking up some noodles and fish when stove turned into an inferno.
"It's hard because you try to keep the place up," he admitted. "I know it was probably an accident, but there's a lot of work, a lot of headaches."
Cell phone video captured the flames in the first-floor corner unit, and witnesses told FOX 9 News thick, choking smoke quickly filled the hallways.
"I came out and there was light smoke coming out of the last apartment on the ground floor," recalled Randy Greenough. "By the time I got in my car to drive away, it was so thick you couldn't see down to American Boulevard."
Smoke and water damage throughout the building left it below code standards, displacing several families. Tenants like Greenough admit they felt helpless as the fire threatened their homes.
"There was nothing I could do," he said. "They weren't going to let me back in the building, so I went to church."
Greenough said he felt like his prayers were answered when he came back and saw the building was standing.
"The whole building could've went," he said.
Frustrations were obviously running high after residents learned a stove-top fire nearly cost them everything they owned and put their lives at risk.
"There's a lot of kids in this building," Greenough said. "This could have been a lot worse."
Anderson and other management staff hustled to make needed repairs to allow the tenants of the other 39 units to return home by Sunday night. Only the resident whose apartment was burned needed to find new lodgings, and FOX 9 News learned he will be staying with friends for the time being.
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