MINNEAPOLIS, MN – A daughter of a woman who was killed in a fire at a Minneapolis public housing high-rise is making plans to hold her funeral in Somalia.
Five people died and three were injured in the early Wednesday morning blaze at the Cedar High Apartments located in a heavily immigrant neighborhood. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office identified four of the five victims as Jerome Stewart, 59; Nadifa Mohamud, 67; Maryan Mohamed Mohamud, 69; and Amatalah Adam.
Mohamud’s daughter, Fardowsa Yusuf, told the Star Tribune Wednesday that her mother lived on the 24th floor and was overcome by smoke trying to escape. Yusuf said she and her two sisters attempted to help Mohamud, who had trouble walking, but lost her in the smoke on the 17th floor. Later, after Yusuf was able to enter her mother’s apartment, she dropped to her knees, placed her forehead on her mother’s mattress and wept quietly.
“I will never get my mother back,” she said, adding it was Mohamud’s wish to be laid to rest in Somalia.
While the cause of the blaze was still under investigation, Fire Chief John Fruetel told reporters Wednesday that investigators believe the fire was an accident but didn’t explain why. No further details on the fire were available Thursday morning and authorities had not released the name of the fifth victim.
Fruetel said the fire had been burning for a while and had blown out windows by the time firefighters arrived. A fire alarm was sounding throughout the building, and from a distance, flames could be seen extending 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 meters) from windows on the 14th floor.
Casper Hill, a city spokesman, said the main floor and lower mechanical rooms had partial sprinkler coverage but the rest of the building did not have a sprinkler system. The building was built in 1969 and wasn’t required to have a sprinkler system due to its age, said Minneapolis Public Authority spokesman Jeff Horwich said.
States and cities need to look at making retrofitting high-rise buildings mandatory, said Shane Gray, a retired fire chief who is the president of the National Fire Sprinklers Association.
"There are tragedies, like the one in Minneapolis, all across the country," Gray told KSTP-TV. "There are other places like Philadelphia, Houston and Louisville that have made retrofitting sprinklers in buildings mandatory."
Horwich said the Cedar High building that burned has 191 apartments, all one-bedroom or studio units. There were 198 residents living in the building at the time of the fire.
The three injured people were being treated Wednesday at hospitals. Their conditions weren’t released, and it wasn’t known whether they remained hospitalized Thursday.
A firefighter also was treated for an exertion-related injury.
Another one of Nadifa Mohamud’s relatives, Ali Warsame, former director of the West Bank Neighborhood Coalition, said family members were still in shock and try to process what happened.
“From the outside, they look OK but I’m sure they’re hurting on the inside,” Warsame said.