Nicolas Hutchinson, Uptown fire victim, left with clothes he's wearing, phone and computer [INTERVIEW]
Nicolas Hutchinson (right) and a photo of the blaze he captured with his phone.
It was shortly after 8 this morning when Nicolas Hutchinson heard the first fire alarm go off. At the time, Hutchinson, a resident on the second floor of a three-story Lake & Irving residential building, didn't think much of it.
"I was about to jump in the shower when I heard a second smoke alarm going off," Hutchinson, 26, said. "That's when I started to wonder -- if there's actually a fire, the smoke would spread and cause another one to go off."
Ten minutes later, a fireman had to extend a ladder up to the balcony of the rapidly burning building to help him get down. Safely away from the building, all Hutchinson could do was stand and watch the place he lived for two and a half years go up in flames.
When the second alarm went off, Hutchinson woke up his sleeping roommate.
"By then, I smelled smoke pretty heavily. I walked into the room and said, 'Eric, get up, I think there's a fire,'" Hutchinson said. "Usually when you'd say something like that they'd think you're joking, but he said I looked pretty concerned and he took me seriously, got out of bed, and put on a jacket and shoes."
Hutchinson and his roommate made their way to the hallway, where they could see some smoke, and then exited the building. But at that time, the smoke wasn't thick, and Hutchinson, thinking he had more time to work with, decided to dart back into his apartment to grab his phone. It could've been a very costly choice.
"In 30 seconds, the smoke started billowing up from downstairs," Hutchinson said. "I've heard that if you breathe in a lot of smoke you can pass out. I thought I could probably make it out running, but I decided just to hang out on the balcony."
"I walked on the balcony, and looking down, all the other tenants I recognize as living there are outside the building. I thought, if nothing else I can jump down. I just ended up staying there until the firetrucks arrived -- they put a ladder up and I was able to climb down, and I watched as the rest of the apartment went up in flames," he continued.
Hutchinson estimated just 10 minutes passed from the time the first fire alarm went off until the building was completely engulfed. He said he isn't yet sure what caused the fire, though he thinks it originated from the first floor of the building.
"The building is old -- probably about 100 years -- there's no sprinkler system, everything is hardwood. That's probably a good reason why it went up so quickly," Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson, a former basketball player at Hamline University who currently works as a business analyst for a medical device company in Plymouth, didn't have renters insurance. He said he didn't have many expensive things, but lost all the items you'd expect after living more than two years in one place.
"Pretty much everything I owned was in that apartment. There's a lot of books I'm not very happy I lost, about 20 pairs of shoes -- shoes I didn't even wear because I liked them so much -- a furniture set, and all the clothes I did have, some electronics," he said, ticking off the list of things he lost this morning.
Asked where he'll go from here with next to no possessions and nowhere to live, Hutchinson said that thankfully, he's "literally gotten messages from 30 different people asking me if I need a place to stay, if I need anything. There's been a lot of people very generous in that regard." He said he'll likely end up staying with family in Bloomington or Wayzata for the time being.
And when he does end up finding another place to rent? He said he's learned his lesson the hard way and won't go without renters insurance again.
"I never imagined my apartment would go up in flames," he said.
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