By Nan Royce
Area communities’ emergency personnel came quickly to the aid of residents of the Rosehaven II apartment complex in Montrose Wednesday night.
Montrose Assistant Fire Chief Matt Menard reported his department was paged to a fire in the senior apartment complex at 11:52 p.m.
Menard arrived on the scene rapidly, and immediately noticed smoke and flames coming from a single unit in the building.
Menard said that his department fully assessed the scene upon arrival. Although it appeared everyone was out of the building, the department completed an interior search of the 18-unit complex. No one was found inside.
Many residents sought shelter in buildings nearby. Others were taken into warm, running vehicles that were on scene (see separate story.)
The Montrose Fire Department, with the assistance of several other departments including Delano, Waverly and Howard Lake, proceeded to attack the fire. A secondary search of the building was also completed.
Three individuals were transported to area hospitals via ambulance for treatment of minor injuries and smoke inhalation.
Menard said that ambulances responded from a widespread area, ready to assist with multiple injuries if necessary. Units from Howard Lake, Glencoe, and Allina and North Memorial health care systems were all standing by.
Rescue helicopters were called off as it became evident they would not be necessary.
Menard indicated impacted apartment dwellers had “true community support.” In addition to the array of professional emergency response teams, the City of Montrose also opened its community center in case apartment residents needed a place to gather or spend the night.
After the fire was extinguished and the smoke was cleared, firefighters went back into the building and did a door-to-door search for residents’ pets.
“We got everything from birds to cats and dogs,” Menard stated. “There were no lost pets.”
The state fire marshal was on scene until 8 a.m. Thursday morning. The cause of the fire remained undetermined at press time, but does not appear intentional.
Menard said the city officially declared the apartment building uninhabitable Thursday morning, due to the utilities being shut off and the smoke damage incurred.
He anticipates several residents of Rosehaven II will be displaced for several weeks to a month.
Montrose’s Ashley Provo had a more exciting evening than she anticipated last Wednesday.
Provo and some friends were out driving and happened to see two police cruisers turn down a road that another friend lives on. They followed.
As they came upon the Rosehaven II apartment building, they saw flames.
“We pulled over to help,” she recollected, “and started pulling people out.”
Provo said she has friends who live in the apartments, and was very concerned. She jumped into action.
“I for sure got four (people) out myself before the fire chief pulled me out and told me to stop going in there,” she said.
Provo and her friends started to watch for apartment dwellers who had no place to go.
“My friend had a few people in her van keeping them warm,” she said. “Most came out with no socks or shoes on. One came out in just underwear.”
Provo was horrified to see a friend lying unconscious on the ground, although her friend had an officer assisting her.
“I ran to her and got next to her and I started to shake her,” Provo said. “One of the firefighters asked me if I knew her as he was putting oxygen on her and I said ‘yes’ and gave them all her information.” Provo stayed with her friend until an EMT arrived.
Provo declined to comment on her friend’s condition, but indicated she visited the hospital herself, just to make sure she was OK. Luckily, she was.
In retrospect, Provo said it felt like time was standing still during the blaze, but she brushes away any compliments on her actions at the time.
“We’re not heroes,” she said of her group of friends. “We were just in the right place at the right time. God wanted us there.”
Provo is glad that no one was seriously hurt, and insists on giving credit where credit is due. “I want to make sure that all the fire departments, EMTs, sheriff, and the neighbors who came and gave clothes to the ones who had none get a big thank you,” she emphasized. “They’re the real heroes.”