Investigators still seek cause of fatal Mpls fireby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Minneapolis fire officials say they have not ruled out any possible cause of the fire that killed six people last week. They say they are not finished with the investigation, but acknowledge the fire doesn't appear to be suspicious.
In the meantime, employees of the pub that went up in flames say they will mourn -- and then rebuild.
The sky and charred debris were visible Monday morning through the glassless windows of the second floor of the building that housed McMahon's Pub. Investigators believe the fire started on the second level, and spread flames and toxic smoke around the building.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner has officially identified one victim, Ann Gervais. But they have not released the names of the other five. Relatives have identified the others as Ann's son, Andrew Gervais, and his three young children died, as well as Ryan Richner, a bartender at McMahon's.
"Such a tragedy," said J.C. Chappell, one of several onlookers who came to pay their respects for the deceased, and for the bar formerly known as the Poodle Club.
"All of us old-timers, we remember the old Poodle Club. And so I wanted to say that this is an end of an era," said Chappell.
Chappell sits in a motorized wheelchair. A shock of dreadlocks pokes out from under a brightly colored tam and rests on his shoulders. Chappell says he knows the building's owners, the Blumenthal family. He says he used to work for the family doing handiwork.
"At different times I did all kinds of stuff," said Chappell. "I'd paint there, put up ceiling tiles."
As Chappell and others watch, a few men drag black plastic bags out of the back of the building. One carries out the top of an old jukebox and sets it down in the parking lot.
Jon Fischer used to tend bar and book the entertainment at McMahon's.
"I've seen a lot of things. This is the most horrible thing I've ever seen in my life," he said.
Fischer is organizing a fundraiser for the surviving families later this month. He says the bands that played at the bar will play at the fundraiser.
"The bands knew a few of the people who perished in the fire," said Fischer. "I've gotten un unbelievable amount of support from people in other bands that wanted to come out and play."
The fundraiser will be held April 17 at the Fort Snelling Club. Fischer says people can also make donations to the Lake Street Fire Relief Fund at any U.S. Bank branch.
The McMahon's Pub Web site also lists another fundraiser on April 11, which will be hosted by the Twin Cities Darts Association. A statement on the pub's Web site reports that the building will be torn down, but the pub will be rebuilt.
Minneapolis public safety officials say the arson unit -- which is made up of police officers and firefighters -- is still investigating the fire. They say nothing has been ruled out yet.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that arson was ruled out as a cause of the fire. The fire department has since clarified that it has only ruled out "suspicious causes." The current version is correct.
- All Things Considered, 04/05/2010, 5:51 p.m.