ALEXANDRIA, Minn.-Up until a couple of weeks ago, Douglas County in central Minnesota hadn't had a fatal fire in 15 years.
Now, in the space of 11 days, two fires have claimed three lives.
Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Karrow confirmed that a 19-year-old woman died in an apartment fire early Monday, Jan. 15. A name was not released Monday, pending the confirmation of her identity and notification of family members. An autopsy will be performed by the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office in Ramsey on Tuesday.
Two tenants also were injured in the fire and taken by helicopter to Regions Hospital in the Twin Cities to be treated for burns and smoke inhalation, Karrow said. They were able to escape by exiting through windows.
The building, which includes four apartment units, was on fire when deputies and firefighters arrived on scene shortly before 5:30 a.m., three minutes after the fire call. "We found heavy, heavy flames on the south side of the building and heavy smoke on the north side," Karrow said.
Most of the residents were able to get out of the building before fire trucks pulled up and others were awakened by smoke alarms or officers pounding on their doors.
Fifty-eight firefighters from Alexandria, Garfield and Forada worked in subzero temperatures and wind chills of 30 below zero for several hours to contain the blaze but the building was a total loss, Karrow said.
They used 20,000 gallons of water and were on scene for about six and a half hours.
Having so many firefighters helped in the cold conditions, allowing the departments to frequently switch out manpower so firefighters could stay warm, Karrow said.
The cause of the fire has not been determined. Karrow said it started in unit 2, where the death and injuries occurred.
The case remains active and is under investigation, according to the police department.
According to county tax records, the building is owned by David and Dawn Prchal of Alexandria. The structure was built in 1905, valued at $114,200 and includes 1,739 square feet.
The other fatal fire, which also happened during the early morning hours, took place at Viking City mobile home park on Friday, Jan. 5, in Alexandria. Two people died - Rose Marie Couillard, 59, and James "Jimmy" Willis Chandler, Jr., 49.
Investigators said that fire was caused by smoking and began in the living room. There were no smoke alarms in the mobile home.