Bulging bricks force evacuation of St. Paul buildings

St. Paul firefighters evacuated a block of buildings on Payne Avenue early Wednesday afternoon after a passerby noticed a bulge in the brick façade. Firefighters shut down Payne Avenue and evacuated four units in the building, as well as the adjacent buildings on the block.

“My understanding is it’s been going on for quite some time, it’s just gotten worse very recently,” St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said. “A passerby saw how dramatic it was and called the police, who then called the fire department.”

Zaccard said a family of four and a family of six were evacuated and placed into temporary housing with the assistance of the Red Cross. The other residents, who were not in the building at the time, have not been located.

A St. Paul building inspector was called to the scene and condemned the building. The city has hired a contractor to come out and take down the loose bricks before they fall down and hit somebody. No injuries have been reported, but Zaccard said a falling brick could have been deadly to a passerby.

“We’re surprised how much it’s bowed out, and it hasn’t fallen yet,” Zaccard said. “It’s a good 16 to 18 inches from the wall that it’s supposed to be attached to, so these could come down any moment.”

Once the loose and building bricks are removed, the structural integrity of the building will be evaluated. At this time, firefighters believe the damage is limited to the brick veneer.

“This kind of thing can happen with this kind of weather you get water that gets in there -- it freezes and expands and pushed bricks out,” Zaccard said. “I’m not sure what exactly caused this yet, but we believe it’s just the brick veneer on the outside.”