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UPDATE: Overnight Woodbury fire could be seen 'a mile away' (W/VIDEO)

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An unattended cigarette is being blamed for an apartment fire that shot flames high into the night’s sky early Monday and destroyed three units in Woodbury.

“I could see the glow in the sky a mile away,” Woodbury fire department Cmdr. John Wallgren said of the fire, which occurred at the Woodland Pointe apartment complex, 6908 Ashwood Road.

Eight people were displaced as a result of the fire, according to the American Red Cross. Wallgren said no residents or firefighters were injured in the blaze.

Firefighters were called at 1:01 a.m. after witnesses reported seeing flames shooting from the apartment complex.

Wallgren, the first firefighter to arrive on the scene, said flames were shooting 40 feet above the three-story building when he got there.

He said the complex didn’t have sprinklers – it was built before they were required – and alarms hadn’t gone off inside the building because the flames had yet to breach the interior. Wallgren said police officers rushed inside the building and pulled alarms to begin evacuation of the structure.

“We had so much fire that it was a huge concern that the building next to it would go,” he said, noting that firefighters were able to keep the blaze contained to the single structure. “It was pretty alarming there for a few minutes.”

Initial reports of explosions occurring were likely windows blowing out due to the extreme heat, Wallgren explained.

Three units were destroyed by fire, while three other units’ doors were destroyed by firefighters who had to break them down to battle the fire from the inside.

“It was a nice, aggressive attack,” Wallgren said.

That, he said, included help from a police officer cross-trained as a firefighter. That officer was among the first on the scene and helped the initial truck crew on the first hose line.

The officer’s assistance, Wallgren said. was invaluable.

“That’s how we train,” he said.

Initial investigation revealed the fire was likely started by an unattended cigarette on a second-story balcony, Wallgren said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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