Untangling The Facts On The Explosion At The Minneapolis Apartment Building

Untangling The Facts On The Explosion At The Minneapolis Apartment Building

I’ve been covering the story of the explosion and fire that took place in the Cedar-Riveraide neighborhood on Minneapolis, Minnesota on New Year’s Day. There’s been a fair but of misinformation and confusion. This post is designed to clear up some of that with unfiltered facts from spokespeople for the gas company CenterPoint and the Minneapolis Police Department.

Please listen to the audio clips. There’s a LOT of detail in the clips. If you just read the post and skip the clips, you’ll miss a lot.

CenterPoint Is Definitive: No Gas Leak  With Their System

Because of the conflicting statements, I contacted CenterPoint and spoke with  Rebecca Virdin. I’m glad I did because as you’ll see in a moment, there’s some very bad reporting going on with this story.

Our distribution system after we checked it–which runs up to the meter, which is the distribution system’s responsibility, to the meter–has no leak on it at all. We tested that system and it holds its test. We even took it apart and tested it to make sure because it had no leakage. It’s fully sound.

As for our system, we had no leakage, no leak history, no leak calls into our call centers prior to the incident before, during or after.

Here’s audio of the interview, which is longer than what I quoted. It seems very definitive. Listen to it.

[su_audio url=”http://stran-storage.s3.amazonaws.com/noloeaks.mp3″ width=”80%”]

Police Officer Was On Scene

CenterPoint says nobody reported smelling gas and significantly, the spokeswoman for CenterPoint says that they were told a police officer was in the building just minutes prior to the explosion.

[su_audio url=”http://stran-storage.s3.amazonaws.com/MN-police.mp3″ width=”80%”]

I followed up with the Minneapolis police, who confirmed an officer was outside when the explosion happened. The officer was been called to the address on a robbery call. 

[su_audio url=”http://stran-storage.s3.amazonaws.com/MPD-officer-outside.mp3 ” width=”80%”]

Explosion “Isolated To One Unit”

Apparently, the explosion came from one unit on the second floor.

[su_audio url=”http://stran-storage.s3.amazonaws.com/OneUnit.mp3″ width=”80%”]

Fire Chief Still Blames “Gas Problem”

Despite all of this–the firm denial from CenterPoint, the police officer on scene minutes before, the fact that the explosion came from one unit–the fire chief is still sticking to the gas story.


As the Star-Tribune reports:

Fire Chief John Fruetel said Thursday afternoon that witness accounts of a natural gas smell and the explosion strongly suggest that gas was involved.

Fruetel added that the fire began either on the second floor or third floor.

But Fruetel also said that investigators are not certain what caused the fire and they may never be certain. He said four or five investigators have been on the site around the clock, looking for evidence such as debris patterns.

No mention of the police officer. Uncertainty about whether the explosion and fire began on the second or third floor. And the prediction that investigators may never know what happened.

That’s the stuff conspiracy theories are made of. I hate conspiracy theories, so I’m going to keep reporting on

The Star-Tribune’s Bad Reporting

st-article copy

Further complicating the story is some unconscionably awful reporting by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. This article attributes two quotes to Rebecca Virdin.

I grappled over whether I should discuss this but after several people on Twitter told me that they’d heard that there was ‘no natural gas in the area’, I decided that I should speak out about what I knew.

The quote about ‘no natural gas in the area’ comes from the reporting of Paul Walsh at the Star-Tribune. I don’t know Mr. Walsh.

During the course of my interview with Rebecca Virdin, she told that Mr. Walsh had misquoted her. She also told me that she’d contacted him to correct the misquote and other errors. Here’s the audio of Ms. Virdin telling me about this.

[su_audio url=”http://stran-storage.s3.amazonaws.com/Star%20Tribune.mp3″ width=”80%”]

Continued: Body recovered from rubble of Cedar-Riverside explosion, fire


Except that’s not what Rebecca Virden said.

[su_audio url=”http://stran-storage.s3.amazonaws.com/made%20up%20quote.mp3″ width=”80%”]

On an important story that’s sparked national interest, a spokesperson is misquoted about important details by Star-Tribube. Another quote is made up. Bad, bad, bad.

I left a message for the New Editor of the Star-Tribune. No response.




  1. This last sound bite, from Rebecca Virden, informs us how the media operate. They ask a question, then give the answer as if it were an unsolicited quotation. So, NEVER answer a speculative question, no matter who asks. In fact, don’t answer questions at all; wait politely for the questioner to finish, then make a statement you would have made had nobody asked a question. You’re not testifying under oath.

    By the way, in the early ’90’s, a person committed suicide by opening up a propane bottle. He was in the basement. The basement filled with propane, gas, then crept up to the first floor level where it finally found an open flame. The explosion was heard miles away – I know, I heard it – and the first floor of the house disappeared. The second floor of course collapsed into where the first floor had been. The house was finished in stucco, which sandblasted parked cars and houses across the street. By the following afternoon it had been cleaned up. Nothing was left. So, no, this probably was not a gas explosion. Besides, natural gas and propane are both heavier than air and would not accumulate on the second floor.

      • The “natural gas” isnt always 100% methane, but ditto on the analysis being incorrect. Theres also other variables such as whether the 1st and 2nd floors where isolated from each other at the time of the purported “leak”. All of this evidence was lost when the DHS decided to hurry up and plow it under with an excavator before anyone could get a close look at it. My guess is that they where making a bomb or some other device and it blew up prematurely, or it was an intentional explosion for serving some other purpose. Somali’s and Islamic terrorism go together like peanut-butter and jelly.

  2. I take it CenterPoint is the natural gas provider. Ms. Virden’s statement doesn’t really mean much. If the building had exploded from a gas leak, the leak would be within the building, which is not part of what they service. People might have reported smelling gas to them, however, so the fact that they had no such reports means a little. It could still be that nobody was around, or it wasn’t strong enough for whoever was there to detect it, or they didn’t realize what it was. She just makes it sound important, because the important thing to the gas company is that it is not THEIR fault. The only other fact she had was that it was on the second floor.

    The fact that a cop had just left the building (apparently not smelling gas) is the only intriguing tidbit. Second or third floor? Facts get mixed up in an emergency. No biggie. I suppose if the cop was on the first floor he might not have smelled anything, but that’s still a heck of a coincidence.

    Still, it could just be that someone had a leak with their gas stove, in a unit that was sealed off tightly enough that nobody smelled anything. Then one spark would do it. Or they had a cooker that used propane, and the tank blew up. It could also be a suicide, of course (especially if it was someone in trouble with the cops).

    The speculation on how long the investigation will take, and saying they may never know seems odd, but that could just be that they don’t want commit to a timeline, in case something weird pops up. I’d guess they had a theory almost instantly, but need to verify it before making it public. It could come out in a few days.

    Sure, the authorities might try to cover up a terrorism case, but it just seems like a terrorist would go for something bigger (unless this was some sort of “work accident”, of course).

    Bad reporting? That’s a “Bear Craps in Woods” story, especially these days.

    • I go by evidence — there’s no confirmable evidence I’ve found about a gas leak.

  3. Meth Lab

    • There’s no evidence of that as far as I know.

  4. Audio tracks not working.
    The conspiracy deepens.(cue eerie music)

  5. Just a nit: The first two times you refer to the police officer, you have mistakenly typed “police office”.

    • Thanks. Fixed.

  6. The problem is that everybody is worried about that backlash against Muslims that never seems to happen so they can’t even report on the facts of the story.
    Especially if it was a work accident.



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