Fatal Twin Cities fire worst of recent rash

8:22 AM, Jan 1, 2013   |    comments
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SHOREVIEW, Minn. - Firefighters from four Twin Cities departments responded to a morning fire at 1002 Richmond Court in Shoreview Monday morning. They were too late to save the life of a woman who lived in the house alone. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

"Our crews going through the house did what they could to gain access to the area," said Tim Boehlke, Lake Johanna Fire Chief. "They were finding tremendous amounts of debris in the house. By our terms, we typically call it a 'garbage' type house...It was very difficult. There was literally debris floor-to-ceiling in pretty much every room."

Lake Johanna, Roseville, New Brighton and Vadnais Heights firefighters fought the smoky, smoldering blaze. "My guess, this probably was a smoldering fire, burning for many hours prior to the call," said Boehlke.

The woman, now identified as 60-year-old Nancy Swanson, had four children and a grandchild in the Twin Cities, according to neighbors. She was found on the first floor of the home. An employee of a nearby group home called in the fire after smelling what she thought was "burning rubber."

The Shoreview fire is the latest of six fires in seven days over the Holidays. On Christmas Eve, a Minneapolis house fire sent two persons to the hospital. On Christmas Day, a Plymouth fire heavily damaged a condo. On December 26th, another Plymouth fire damaged three apartment units. On December 28th, an unattended candle was blamed for the Lake Street fire that gutted eight condos. Finally, on New Year's Eve, fire in a South Minneapolis home sent one man to the hospital with minor burns. Then, the Shoreview fire struck with the loss of a life.

City of Minneapolis Fire Marshal Perry Ebner took note of the high number of fires at the end of December. "Seems to be more fires in the wintertime due to heating elements, people working with space heaters, open flames, such as candles."

Smoking and overloaded electric outlets are a common cause this time of year, but the main cause is the result of ordinary celebration.

"The main cause of residential fires is cooking," said Ebner. "That is 60 percent of fires caused by those accidents around the stove itself. Furnaces are the same thing. It is part of the heating around there. You want to make sure you get annual check-ups on the heating and also make sure that the furnace is cleaned out and functions properly."

Ebner's general advice? "You want to make sure that smoke detectors work. If you have not changed your batteries in your smoke detector already, such as when the clocks change, then you should right now and make sure that they are taken car of they are functioning properly."

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