Fire calls force 2 evacuations at Mill Pond II

Cliff Buchan
News Editor

It’s not every night that residents of apartment buildings are forced to evacuate because of a fire. But twice in one night?

That’s what residents of Mill Pond II, 525 SW 4th St., experienced late Friday, Aug. 3 and early Saturday, Aug. 4.

In the first incident, a mattress caught fire and sent Forest Lake Fire & Rescue into action. In the second incident, a building maintenance effort using high heat to rid a suspected bedbug infestation in a unit backfired, setting off fire alarms.

Fire and police were called to Mill Pond II at 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 3 after the fire was reported in unit 107. Police said the occupant of the unit, a 24-year-old man, had apparently fallen asleep in bed with a lit cigarette.

While fire crews took care of the small fire and cleared smoke from the floor, police escorted the man outside. He was not injured.

Police Capt. Greg Weiss said the man appeared to be intoxicated and refused to cooperate with police. He was arrested for obstruction, disorderly conduct and possession of drug paraphernalia.

All building residents were evacuated during the emergency call but allowed to return after the building was cleared, said Fire Chief Gary Sigfrinius.

2nd Incident

But fire crews would soon return to the complex.

At 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 4, firefighters were summoned again to the same building by a fire alarm. In checking units, officials found the door to unit 119 warm to the touch.

Inside the unit, firefighters found numerous space heaters and heating coils that had been wired directly to an electrical panel. Sigfrinius and Weiss said the heaters were being used to greatly elevate the room temperature in an effort to kill the suspected bedbug infestation.

“We’ve never had one like this before,” the chief said. Sigfrinius said the format is commonly used but the electrical wiring in this case was a problem.

Building maintenance workers had apparently put the heaters to work at some point during the previous day with the intent of raising the heat for an extended period. Police and fire officials put the temperature inside the unit at 145 degrees.

As in the first fire call, apartment residents were forced outside until firefighters could determine if the building was safe for their return.

The apartment unit had been occupied but all furnishings were removed while the bug killing exercise was in process, officials said.