Fire Crews were called to 1053 N. Western Ave. in St. Paul early Thursday morning and had difficulty containing the blaze at the two story building. Located at the first floor was Stasny's Food Mart, which was known for its meat counter and had served generations of neighborhood shoppers. It reportedly took five hours to control the flames. Rescue workers were alerted to the possibility of a man in the basement, but despite best efforts to gain access, he could not be saved.
Said Steve Zaccard, St. Paul Fire Marshal said, "The fire was so bad in the basement, it was unsurvivable."
The Pioneer Press reports that those who knew him say the deceased was was Stuart "Stu" Gerr, aged 77. Gerr was more than just a butcher, but also a neighborhood mainstay and beloved friend. Owner Jim Stasny said of Gerr, "He’s a workaholic. He works late and he’s up early." The Stasny Market had been open for 94 years and operated by four generations of the family.
Stasny said his wife received a call alert about a broken glass intrusion at about 1:30 a.m. Shortly thereafter Gerr phoned in distress and unable to say much. It appears that he died from smoke inhalation while trying to ascend the stairs.
Above the market, Tim Schmugge and Eva Tietz lived in an apartment with her two teenaged children. All were able to flee the fire safely, but their home was a complete loss.
The cause of the fire remains unclear. The St. Paul Fire Department has called in the state fire marshal to assist in the investigation, which is standard in this situation.
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